Mayor Lightfoot, candidates, elected officials condemn violent arrest of Tyre Nichols in Memphis
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday night called the violent arrest and subsequent death of Tyre Nichols a "horrific, unconscionable, and preventable act of violence" by Memphis police.
The mayor also encouraged everyone calling for justice to remain peaceful:
"As a Black mother, I can only imagine the pain, grief, and frustration that is consuming the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Make no mistake: what happened to Tyre was a horrific, unconscionable, and preventable act of violence carried out by those sworn to serve and protect. As we know all too well, tragic incidents like these not only send ripples of anguish across our country, but further erode trust between law enforcement and communities—especially those that are Black and Brown.
"Knowing that today's news will reopen painful wounds for all those who loved Tyre, I urge everyone who is rightfully calling for justice to express themselves peacefully. Seeing a Black man murdered by the police will always spark feelings of outrage, pain, and despair. It's important for us to channel those emotions into working together and ensuring that as a nation, we continue to hold our law enforcement officers to the highest standards of ethical, professional and constitutional policing. It is dismaying that these officers were young in their profession and men of color themselves. It's clear that there is much more systemic work that must be done. In the meantime, my prayers continue to be with Tyre's family, friends, community as well as the other residents of Memphis as they continue to cope with this unimaginable loss."
Officials in Memphis on Friday released police video from the violent arrest of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man whose death earlier this month has led to second-degree murder charges against five officers, who were fired over the incident. Nichols died three days after what his family and authorities described as a brutal encounter that stemmed from a traffic stop.
The four videos — posted on the city of Memphis' Vimeo account shortly before 6 p.m. CST — were taken from police body cameras and street surveillance cameras. They show officers first removing Nichols from his vehicle after pulling him over, an initial struggle when Nichols breaks loose and runs away from the officers, and then disturbing images of Nichols being restrained and beaten by five officers in an intersection.
The videos show him being kicked in the head multiple times while being restrained, Tased, pepper sprayed, and struck multiple times with a baton.
Other Chicago and Illinois elected officials and mayoral candidates also issued statements expressing outrage Friday night.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker released this statement on Twitter:
Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton issued this statement:
"Today, I speak the name of Tyre Nichols. He was a son, a brother, and a father. Tyre should be alive today.
"Once again, the people of this country must see and be exposed to violent, sickening video from a traffic stop. Violence at the hands of police and systemic racism has taken far, far too many lives. This trauma is not and never will be normal. This must end.
"I send my deepest condolences to the people of Memphis and all who are hurt and outraged after the release of this video. As communities peacefully protest and make space to grieve and process, we stand with you. We remain committed to healing the harms of such injustice and protecting the right to life, safety, and happiness for Black and Brown families.
"As the mother of four daughters, I can't imagine the anguish of losing a child so suddenly and so violently. Tyre's family and loved ones will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers, as they grapple with the ongoing pain and trauma of this video and his tragic death. I hope they have the support and comfort needed in this incredibly difficult time. May his memory be a blessing."
U.S. Rep. and mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia released a thread of tweets.
Candidate Paul Vallas released this statement earlier in the day.
Cook County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson issued a video statement.
Alderman and mayoral candidate Roderick Sawyer (6th) issued this statement through his campaign:
"The Tyre Nichols video is sickening and a tragic reminder we have a long way to go on racial disparities in policing.
"As the architect of Police Reform in Chicago I never want to see another case like this one, or the video of Laquan McDonald, or countless other Black and Brown people for whom a minor traffic stop can turn deadly.
"I have worked my whole life to make us better than this as a nation and as a city.
"While the acts committed by these officers is inhuman, I join Mayor Lightfoot in urging protesters to remain peaceful while they rightly demonstrate against this criminal abuse of authority."
Prior to the release of the video, activist and mayoral candidate Ja'Mal Green said in a news release: "I am sickened to once again see yet another man brutally murdered in this country. I am sickened to once again have to respond to a murder by those who are supposed to protect us. I am sickened to once again see a family burying their child. I am sick and tired of saying the same words, asking for the same change, and seeing no serious results."
Several Chicago area members of the Illinois congressional delegation also released statements.
Evanston police Chief Schenita Stewart earlier in the day released a statement emphasizing the need of police to build trust.
"Highly publicized police-citizen encounters over the past few years have garnered the attention of the nation. The recent arrest of five Memphis Police officers for the beating and murder of Tyre Nichols and the subsequent release of video of this incident will again spotlight police misconduct on a national level. Individuals who have seen the video describe it as reckless, appalling and inhumane.
"I believe that the general mission of police is to ensure the safety of the public, reduce crime, establish trust, and maintain the quality of life. In fulfilling this mission, we are responsible for protecting the constitutional rights of every person we encounter.
"A crisis of confidence is increasing in communities over police use of force, lack of transparency, and what is seen as overly aggressive law enforcement strategies. These actions have upset our social fabric and undermined the confidence in and legitimacy of our police agencies and local governments. This has to change.
"As chief of the Evanston Police Department, I would like to reiterate our department's continued commitment to building trust, confidence and partnership with our community, and to protecting the rights of all individuals as we carry out our mission of ensuring public safety.
"I am honored and privileged to work with the members of the Evanston Police Department and our entire community as we carry out this important work. Thank you for everything you do."
As CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reported, more than an hour of footage was released. It included body camera video along with street surveillance video. Please be warned that the body camera video, parts of which are seen in the CBS 2 News story above, is difficult to watch.
The prosecutor in Memphis said all five officers who were charged with murder played different roles – but collectively are all responsible for murdering Nichols.
The body camera video begins with Memphis police officers with their guns out as they approach the car Nichols is in. He was pulled over for what the officers said was reckless driving.
The officers forcibly remove Nichols from the car. An officer is seen grabbing Nichols by the wrist, while another has a Taser pressed into Nichols' thigh.
Nichols is sprayed with a chemical spray, and then is able to get up. At that point, a Taser is used om him, and he can be seen running away while taking his shirt off.
Shaky body camera video shows one of the officers chasing and eventually tackling Nichols at a different location. A street surveillance camera that does not have audio also captures one of the most difficult parts of the video to watch – while restrained, officers kick Nicholas multiple times in the head, use a Taser on him, and hit him with a baton.
Nichols can be heard screaming for his mother.
"For a mother to know that their child was calling them in their need, and I wasn't there for you," said Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells. "Do you know how I feel right now, because I wasn't there for my son?"
Cheryl Dorsey, a retired sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, was on the job when Rodney King was beaten by officers there in 1991. She has reviewed the graphic video from Memphis.
"I've seen it happen. I know that it occurs at the end of a foot pursuit. Officers are amped up. They're hyped up, and sometimes they're angry because they've had to run," Dorsey said, "and a lot of times, what we see is officers not really trying to get anyone into custody – not really trying to gain compliance – but punishing the individual for having run in the first place."
Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci represents the Nichols family.
"There's no doubt that the type of charges that have been levied against these officers fit the alleged crimes," Romanucci said.
Nichols' attorneys said the speed at which the officers were charged and the video was released to the public – about 20 days – should be the blueprint for use-of-force incidents around the country.
We also learned Friday night that Shelby County, Tennessee Sheriff's deputies who appeared at the scene of Nichols' beating have been relieved of their duties pending an internal investigation.
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