Police body cam footage was released on Friday evening, showing the January 7th pepper spraying and brutal assault by Memphis police against Tyre Nichols. He died after the traffic stop.
Memphis police were bracing for possible public outrage, canceling after-school events in the city in advance.
Nichols' mother, Rowvaughn Wells Nichols, said the footage is awful but she doesn't want violence. "It's going to be horrific," said Mrs. Nichols. "But I want each and every one of you to protest in peace."
The five officers involved in the attack on Nichols are charged with second-degree murder, assault, and aggravated kidnapping.
Steve Mulroy, Shelby County District Attorney General explained although each of the police officers played different roles in the killing, "They are all responsible" and "under the laws of Tennessee, second-degree murder is a knowing killing."
Memphis prosecutors say the body cam video shows officers first used pepper spray on Nichols during the initial traffic stop. Then the 29-year-old escaped from the police, but Nichols' family said he ran away because he was only trying to get home.
Police caught up with Nichols, and that's when they brutally assaulted him.
An ambulance was called to the scene after Nichols complained of shortness of breath. He ended up in the hospital with life-threatening injuries and died three days later.
"The actions of these officers were awful, and no one, including law enforcement, is above the law," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland insisted.
The charges against the five police officers came after an investigation determined they violated a number of department policies including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis suggested the officer's actions went beyond the rules of proper police conduct. "This is not just a professional failing, this is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhuman," she said.
Speaking through attorney William Massey, the five black police officers said they are innocent of the charges against them. "No one is guilty until a jury says they're guilty," he said.
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