Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The latest on the evidence in Tyre Nichols' death

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Videos of the police beating of Tyre Nichols have been released. The city of Memphis uploaded the footage to Vimeo this evening. We'll hear two short clips of that footage in this conversation. And we'll warn you that the audio is of Memphis police officers' violent arrest of Tyre Nichols. So if you don't want to hear this, tune away for the next 4 minutes. The videos show five police officers pummeling the 29-year-old Nichols after they pulled him over for what they said was reckless driving. All five officers have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder, among other crimes. WKNO's Katie Riordan is in downtown Memphis. Hi, Katie.

KATIE RIORDAN, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: I want to be transparent with listeners that our newsroom debated whether to air this audio and did not make a final decision until the videos were released. And although it's hard to hear, it's also part of the story. It would be a disservice to not share any of it and also a disservice to run it at length without a warning. So all of that said, Katie, tell us about what the videos show.

RIORDAN: It is hard to watch. And all of the warnings we've heard during the last few days from law enforcement officials and the attorneys who've already seen it are accurate. One of the ways they've repeatedly described it is lacking humanity. One of the attorneys representing the family, Antonio Romanucci, said earlier this week that the five officers used Tyre Nichols as a, quote, "human pinata." The footage is from bodycam footage and also other surveillance cameras. It's broken up into four segments. It starts out with the bodycam footage of an officer approaching the traffic stop of Tyre Nichols. You then see a scuffle and hear lots of police shouting and officers cursing and officers yelling, quote, "get on the ground." The officers are immediately aggressive. Then you hear Nichols. We can take a listen to an eight-second clip. And a warning - it's tough to listen to.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TYRE NICHOLS: You guys are really doing a lot right now.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #1: Bro, lay down.

NICHOLS: I'm just trying to go home.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #2: Man, if you don't lay down...

NICHOLS: Bro, I am on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #3: (Shouting) Put your hands behind your...

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #2: (Shouting) Stomach.

RIORDAN: There's a chase, and at some point, Nichols is down on the ground again. And in this two-second clip, this is what you hear...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NICHOLS: (Shouting) Mom.

RIORDAN: ...Nichols yelling for his mom. According to his mom, this all culminated about 100 yards from their home. In the fourth video, you also hear police say Nichols was trying to grab one of their guns. Earlier today, Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis told CNN that she's never witnessed anything like this footage. She said the officers' aggression is just unexplainable, that they were riled up from the start, and it just increased.

SHAPIRO: And so how are people in Memphis seeing this video for the first time reacting?

RIORDAN: Here in Memphis, downtown was quiet just before the video was released. It was peaceful this evening. Tourists were out, and there was a man walking his dog. There appeared to be a small police presence. There was a small group of protesters gathering in Martyrs Park. This is what they sounded like.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Justice for Tyre.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Justice for Tyre.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) No justice...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) No justice...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) No peace.

RIORDAN: They started to march towards town. Before I left them, more people were arriving. But at that time, there appeared to be more journalists than activists. Nichols' mom, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells, have both said they support protests because of what happened to their son. But they've repeatedly said that they don't want to see violence, that Tyre was not violent. They said he was a peaceful person.

SHAPIRO: And just briefly, tell us about what the Nichols family and their attorney said at their press conference earlier today.

RIORDAN: Crump said it was the police culture in America that killed Nichols just as much as the five officers. And he said that Nichols' death should be - should lead to big changes in policing. At the same time, Crump praised what he called the swift justice in the case with second-degree murder charges for the five officers coming so quickly. And he said that a precedent has been set in Memphis and that it should be a blueprint for all of America. Lastly, the five officers charged have all bonded out.

SHAPIRO: That is WKNO's Katie Riordan reporting there from Memphis, Tenn. Thank you, Katie.

RIORDAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Katie Riordan