US on edge over video of fatal police beating

Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

MEMPHIS: The southern US city of Memphis braced itself for unrest on Friday as authorities prepared to release a video depicting the fatal assault of a Black man by five police officers who, the victim´s mother said, “beat him to a pulp.”

The police officers, who are also Black, were charged with second-degree murder in the beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who died in hospital on January 10, three days after being stopped on suspicion of reckless driving.

“They had beat him to a pulp,” Nichols´s mother RowVaughn Wells told CNN, sobbing as she described him in hospital. “He had bruises all over. His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck was bursting because of the swelling.”

“I knew my son was gone,” Wells said. Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis said the graphic video, which will be released after 6:00 pm Central time (0000 GMT Saturday), shows Nichols crying out for his mother.

“What I saw on this video was more of a groupthink sort of mentality. And no one took a step to intercept or intervene,” Davis said. “And that´s why the charges are as severe as they are.” Davis compared the video to footage of the 1991 Rodney King beating, which sparked days of riots in Los Angeles that left dozens dead.

“I was in law enforcement during the Rodney King incident, it´s very much aligned with that same type of behavior,” Davis said. “I would say it´s about the same, if not worse.”

Nichols´s death at the hands of police drew immediate comparisons with the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, another Black man whose suffocation by a white police officer in Minneapolis was caught on film.

Video of Floyd´s death spread rapidly, sparking a massive wave of at times violent protests nationwide and beyond, and reviving scrutiny of race relations and a culture of police brutality in the United States.