Tyre Nichols: What the video footage reveals, and questions that remain

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(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — Nearly three weeks after Tyre Nichols was violently arrested in Memphis, Tennessee, city officials released disturbing footage of his fatal confrontation with police.

The graphic footage of Memphis police officers beating the 29-year-old following a traffic stop was released Friday “because it was important to the community and to Tyre’s family, as they want the world to be their witness and feel their pain,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said in a statement.

The release of the videos sheds more light on what happened to Nichols on the night of Jan. 7, three days before he died. Though it also prompts more questions about the incident, which has sparked nationwide outrage.

What the footage shows

Three videos from body worn cameras were shared to Vimeo by the city of Memphis on Friday with the warning: “Footage contains graphic content and language. Some may find offense. Viewer discretion is advised.” A fourth video — soundless surveillance footage from a city pole camera — was also released, amounting to about 67 minutes total.

1st video

The roughly 11-minute clip is a body camera video that shows Nichols’ initial altercation with police during a traffic stop. As he is pulled out of his car and wrestled to the ground, Nichols can be heard saying, “I didn’t do anything,” and tells officers at least twice that he is “just trying to go home.”

During the altercation an officer warns Nichols, “I’m going to beat your a–” and “I’m going to tase your a–,” as various officers hold him on the ground and yell at him. Nichols’ tone remains calm, at one point telling the cops, “You guys are really doing a lot right now.” He manages to break free from the officers as they appear to try to deploy a stun gun on him and he runs away.

The officer from whose vantage point this body camera video is taken chases him down the road and then turns back to the scene of the initial altercation. Eventually, he learns over the radio that other officers have found Nichols nearby and he says twice, “I hope they stomp his a–.”

2nd video

The roughly 31-minute clip is an overhead surveillance wide-angle shot taken from a city surveillance camera that offers a bird’s-eye view of the unsettling beating.

Several officers can be seen grouped with Nichols, standing over him as he’s on the ground. As two officers hold him down, a third kicks him. A fourth officer comes over with a baton and the officers pick Nichols up from the ground and hold him up while officers appear to strike him in the face and torso.

As Nichols falls to his knees, several officers kneel and lean over him, while another appears to stand a few feet away watching. Additional officers run into the frame. At least one officer kicks Nichols while he is on the ground. About three minutes from the first kick, they begin to step away. They eventually drag him into the street and lean him up against a car as he appears to have his hands behind his back.

Nichols remains slumped next to the car for roughly 20 minutes it appears before officers’ first attempt to render him aid. Several minutes later EMTs appear to lean over Nichols before an ambulance appears.

3rd video

The roughly 6-minute clip is body camera video that shows the officers beating Nichols, taken from the vantage point of the officer who can be seen hitting Nichols with a baton in the second clip.

The footage shows officers beating Nichols and spraying pepper spray as he begins yelling for his mother, who lived nearby. He can be heard screaming “mom” at least three times. The officers yell multiple times at Nichols to “give me your hands.” The officer with the baton can be heard saying, “I’ma baton the f— out of you” then appears to strike him on the back three times. Officers pull Nichols to a stand, then appear to punch and slap him.

4th video

The approximately 19-minute clip is another body camera video from the scene of the beating, though less than two minutes in the camera is somehow affected and nothing is visible. Audio can be heard, including Nichols yelling out “mom.” The video becomes visible once again several minutes later, showing Nichols slumped on the ground next to a vehicle. Later on in the video, as officers stand at the scene rehashing the turn of events, they allege Nichols reached for at least two officers’ guns.

Remaining questions

The footage has helped answer questions about what happened that night, in particular for Nichols’ family. His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said that police initially told her that her son had been tased and pepper sprayed, though the extent of his injuries in the hospital indicated that something more violent had happened. For his stepfather, Rodney Wells, the video “justifies” that Nichols was no threat to the officers.

Though the footage also raises questions about the incident, including:

What led up to Nichols being pulled over?

It’s unclear what led up to the traffic stop in the first place and why officers responded so aggressively. The first video is from the vantage point of an officer arriving at the scene as Nichols is being pulled out of his car while stopped at a red light.

In the fourth video, as officers recounted the traffic stop, one alleged that Nichols nearly drove into oncoming traffic, while another claimed that Nichols swerved and nearly hit his car while he was attempting to pull him over.

Police said he was pulled over for reckless driving, though Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said she has been unable to substantiate that.

“I do believe that the stop itself was very questionable,” Davis told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during an interview Friday on “Good Morning America.” “We have been unable to verify the reckless driving allegation.”

Tennessee state Rep. G.A. Hardaway said questions have not been answered regarding the timeline and logistics of the case and called for clarity regarding the chain of command as it pertains to notification of car chases and violent encounters.

“There is more to the story, and I think that the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County deserve to know the whole story,” he said during a press event Saturday.

Will more charges be filed?

Five officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the confrontation, though the footage shows several officers at the scene who have not been identified.

Ben Crump, the attorney representing the family, told ABC News that the video raises more questions about who was involved, including the unidentified officer at the initial traffic stop whose body camera footage was released, and whether they will face any repercussions.

Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene of the police confrontation were relieved of their duties pending an investigation shortly after the video was released, the county’s sheriff announced Friday. The sheriff said he has launched an investigation into their conduct “to determine what occurred and if any policies were violated,” though no further information was provided.

The local district attorney has said that more charges could be possible in the case.

Why was the first aid response so long?

It appears that roughly 20 minutes lapse between the ending of the beating and the officers’ first attempts to render aid to Nichols as he sat and lied down on the ground. EMTs are not visible in the video until more than 22 minutes after the end of the beating.

Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition after complaining of shortness of breath during the arrest, police said.

The Memphis Fire Department said that two employees involved in the initial patient care of Nichols were removed from duty last week while the agency conducts an investigation into his death. The fire department updated Friday that it was reviewing the footage and plans to conclude its investigation early next week.

What were the roles of the officers charged?

An attorney for Desmond Mills Jr., one of the former officers charged in the case, also said the videos “produced as many questions as they have answers,” for his client, whom he said was not the first on the scene.

“Some of the questions that remain will require a focus on Desmond Mills’s individual actions; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see when he arrived late to the scene; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see after he was pepper sprayed; and on whether Desmond’s actions crossed the lines that were crossed by other officers during this incident,” the attorney, Blake Ballin, said in a statement.

Ballin added that they are “confident” the answers to whether Mills “crossed the lines that others crossed and whether he committed the crimes charged will be answered with a resounding no.”

ABC News’ Whitney Lloyd, Sasha Pezenik and Laura Romero contributed to this report.

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