Tyre Nichols: ‘New clock’ on police accountability after officers sacked within weeks of fatal beating, says Al Sharpton
The US has a “new clock” on police accountability following the quick arrest and firing of five officers charged over the death of Tyre Nichols, influential civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton has said.
Speaking at a rally in Harlem, New York, Reverend Sharpton also rejected the idea that there was no race element to the fatal beating of Mr Nichols by the officers just because they themselves are black.
It comes after Memphis Police released bodycam footage showing police beating the 29-year-old for three minutes while screaming profanities at him throughout the attack.
Police have released four separate videos cut into one hour-long clip, including police bodycam footage and footage from a CCTV camera.
Mr Nichols can be heard screaming “mom, mom” several times as the beating unfolds.
He was 80 yards (73 metres) from his family home, according to his mother.
Warning: This article contains violent images
Five officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes, including assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, over Mr Nichols’ death.
In the footage of the attack, one camera shows the initial police stop at an intersection in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I’m going to baton the f*** out of you,” one officer can be heard saying. His body camera shows him raise his baton while at least one other officer holds Mr Nichols.
After the first officer roughly pulls Mr Nichols out of his car just after 8:20pm on 7 January this year, the FedEx worker can be heard saying “I didn’t do anything” as a group of officers begins to wrestle him to the ground.
“Get on the ground!,” one officer yells, as another is heard shouting: “Tase him! Tase him!”
The father-of-one calmly replied soon after being wrestled to the pavement: “OK, I’m on the ground.”
Moments later, as the officers continue to shout, Mr Nichols says: “Man, I am on the ground.”
An officer yells: “Put your hands behind your back before I break your (expletive).”
Moments later an officer shouts: “Put your hands behind your back before I break them.”
“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Mr Nichols says loudly to the officers. “I’m just trying to go home.”
“Stop, I’m not doing anything,” he yells moments later.
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The camera is briefly obscured and then Mr Nichols can be seen running as an officer fires a Taser at him. The officers then start chasing Mr Nichols.
He is then punched, kicked and hit with a baton. After the beating, officers mill about for several minutes while Mr Nichols lies propped up against the car, then slumps onto the street.
Emergency workers with what looks like medical equipment attend, but do not immediately intervene.
He died on 10 January, three days after the violent arrest.
The officers involved have been dismissed by Memphis Police Department’s Chief of Police, Cerelyn Davis.
Ms Davis, who became the force’s first black female boss in 2021, previously called for “sweeping changes and police reform” in the aftermath of the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Reverend Sharpton, making a speech at a weekly National Action Network rally, said: “So there’s a new precedent set now ‘cos this black women police chief messed you up now – ‘cos she said I’m not waiting on nothing – arrest them, fire them.
“You now got a new clock on police accountability. We don’t want to hear no year investigation.”
Addressing the involvement of race, he said: “One person said to me well at least it ain’t about race.
“I said the race part of it is those black guys thought they could get away with doing it to a black guy.
“You know you couldn’t get away with doing that in Tennessee to a white guy – and you won’t get away with doing it to a black guy either.”
Meanwhile, at a press conference of city leaders held on Saturday, state representative Joe Towns Jr, echoed the comments of Reverend Sharpton on the force’s prompt investigation.
He also said police chief Davis had his full support, praising her for taking “swift action”.
The comments came as a memorial fund set up in the aftermath of Mr Nichols topped $535,000 (£433,000).
The GoFundMe page, set up by Mr Nichols’s mother, is aimed at helping to pay for a memorial skate park in his honour, as well as to allow his family time off from their jobs to grieve and seek justice.
Protests are taking place in at least nine cities across the US – including Memphis – after the bodycam footage was released.
Mr Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, had earlier warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace saying “tearing up the streets” is “not what my son stood for”.
US President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death”.
“It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day,” he added.
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