The city of Memphis has released graphic video footage of the violent encounter between Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, and the five police officers charged with murder in his beating death after a traffic stop.
One video clip shows officers dragging Nichols from the driver's seat of his car as he yells, "Damn, I didn't do anything ... I am just trying to go home", and force him to the ground as they order him to lay on his stomach, then squirt him in the face with pepper spray.
Nichols breaks free, scrambles to his feet and sprints off down a road with officers in pursuit, firing stun guns at him.
A separate video shows a subsequent struggle after officers catch up with Nichols again, and are beating him. Two officers are seen holding him down as a third one kicks him and a fourth delivers blows with what appears to be a rod before another punches Nichols.
The four segments of highly anticipated footage from police body-worn and dashboard cameras were posted online on Friday evening, a day after the officers were charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression.
The officers, all Black, had already been dismissed from the police department last Saturday following their January 7 confrontation with Nichols after pulling him over.
He succumbed to his injuries and died three days later while hospitalised.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis and lawyers for Nichols' family who watched the video with his relatives before it was released, warned in advance that the images were brutal and likely to cause outrage, while appealing to the public for calm.
"You are going to see acts that defy humanity," Davis told CNN in describing the footage.
President Joe Biden said the Nichols' families deserves a swift, full and transparent investigation.
"Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols' death," Biden said in a statement.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing Nichols' family, said the last words on the video were Nichols crying out for his mother.
"No mother should go through what I am going through right now, no mother, to lose their child to the violent way that I lost my child," Tyre Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, said on Friday.
The footage was likely to transform Nichols, the father of a four-year-old described as an affable, accomplished skateboarder who recently enrolled in a photography class, into the next face of the US racial justice movement.
Raised in Sacramento, California, Nichols moved before the coronavirus pandemic to the Memphis area, where he lived with his mother and stepfather and worked at FedEx, taking a break each day to come home for a meal prepared by his mother.
Nichols' family and President Joe Biden have appealed for protests to stay peaceful in Memphis, a city of 628,000 where nearly 65 per cent of residents are Black. Schools were scheduled to close early and Saturday morning events were cancelled.
Biden spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Nichols' stepfather, on Friday afternoon to express his condolences, the White House said, adding that it was coordinating with relevant government agencies in case protests turn violent.
Nichols' death marked the latest high-profile instance of police officers accused of using excessive force in the deaths of Black people and other minorities in recent years. These have been publicly condemned as systemic racism in the US criminal justice system.
Protests under the banner of the "Black Lives Matter" movement against racial injustice erupted globally following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Australian Associated Press
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