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Kicks, punches and cries of ‘Mom!’: the fatal Memphis police beating

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The US city of Memphis releases graphic video footage depicting the fatal police assault of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols./AFP
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Jan 28, 2023 - 04:12 AM

WASHINGTON — It seems at first like a garden-variety arrest for a traffic violation. But police videos released Friday of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols end with Memphis police officers kick-stomping and kneeling on the Black 29-year-old as he weakens from beatings.

Bodycam footage shows Nichols on the ground, plaintively calling out three times: “Mom!” as the officers aim punches and kicks at his face. He died in hospital on January 10, three days later.

The longest of the four videos was from an overhead camera on a power pole in the southern US city. It lasts 31 minutes and has no sound.

Two minutes in, police officers are seen manhandling Nichols on the ground. As one kneels on his torso, another officer kicks him repeatedly.

Officers are seen aiming several kicks at Nichols’ face. After repeated blows, the officers lift Nichols to a standing position, propping him up while pounding him with their fists until he falls to the asphalt — when they aim two more kicks at his face.

He lies face down on the ground. An officer pulls him over to a cruiser and puts him in a sitting position.

Minutes pass with Nichols in clear agony. At least six officers mill about. One shines a flashlight on Nichols although the scene is fairly well illuminated by street lights.

In one extended section, Nichols’ slumped body is propped sitting on the ground against a police car, his head lolling onto his chest and legs in front of him. His upper half repeatedly collapses to the ground — only to be propped up again by the police in attendance.

More officers show up. They mill, circling the scene, waiting for emergency medical technicians to show up.

There is no clear moment when it becomes apparent that the blows against Nichols would end up costing him his life.

The other three videos released by the Memphis Police Department are all from officers’ chest cameras and offer different perspectives.

In one, officers catch Nichols after a foot chase. Several officers are exhausted.

Nichols is pinned on the ground. “I didn’t do anything,” Nichols gasps. “You don’t do that, okay?”

“Get on the ground!” one officer commands.

In another dramatic video, officers have fired a Taser at Nichols but he has run away. Police catch up with him, yelling expletives.

One officer pepper sprays Nichols, subduing him.

A fourth video contains scenes of officers who remained behind after Nichols’ escape.

One officer speaks by radio to a police dispatcher: “Young black male, slim build, blue jeans and a hoodie.”

Officers give each other water from a water bottle. One is bent over in exhaustion, hands on his knees. Another appears to reel the wire from the Taser fired at Nichols back on to its spool.

“I got to find my glasses,” an officer says, breathing heavily. The footage later shows him picking up his glasses from the roadway where they’d fallen.

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