Civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Monday described body camera footage showing a Jan. 7 traffic stop involving deceased Tyre Nichols, who died three days after his encounter with Memphis police, as "appalling" and "heinous" after reviewing the video with Nichols' family.
"It is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous. It is violent," Crump said of the footage, likening it to video of Rodney King, a Black man who was beaten by police in the 1990s.
MPD initially pulled over Nichols, 29, on Jan. 7 around 8:30 p.m. for "reckless driving" near Raines Road and Ross Road in Memphis, according to a press release MPD published on Jan. 8.
A "confrontation occurred" during the stop, at which point Nichols ran away from police on foot. Officers pursued the 29-year-old and attempted to apprehend him, according to the press release.
"While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended," MPD said in the press release. "Afterward the suspect complained of having shortness of breath, at which point an ambulance was called to the scene."
Authorities transported Nichols to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition, and the 28-year-old died three days later on Jan. 10, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), which is investigating the incident.
Nichols' family believes 28-year-old died as a result of officers' actions on that day.
"He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed beating of this young boy for three minutes. … Not only was it violent. It was savage," another attorney in Crump's firm stated during the conference as Nichols' mother could be heard crying in the background.
Nichols was a FedEx worker, a skateboarder, a photographer and a father, according to Crump.
"He loved his son. Everything he was trying to do was to better himself as a father for his 4-year-old son," the civil rights attorney said.
On Jan. 20, MPD announced the termination of five police officers involved in the incident for violating "multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid," MPD Chief CJ Davis said in a press release at the time.
The five officers who were fired as a result of violating MPD policies include Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. All five officers were hired between 2017 and 2020.
Crump said during Monday's press conference that the race of the officers involved is not as significant as the race of the victim.
"It is not the race of the police officer that is the determinable factor of the amount of excessive force that is being exerted. It is the race of the citizen," the civil rights attorney said. "We have to have accountability no matter who tramples on the Constitution of rights for our citizens."
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division also opened an investigation into the incident on Jan. 18.
"As this is an open investigation, we are not able to provide additional comment or release further information at this time," U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Kevin Ritz said in a statement at the time.
MPD is expected to release the body camera footage in the near future.