Tyre Nichols Death Updates: Cities Brace for Unrest as Bodycam Footage to be Released Soon

Live Updates
Tyre Nichols Vigil
People attend a candlelight vigil in memory of Tyre Nichols (Inset) at the Tobey Skate Park on January 26, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. Getty

The live updates for this blog have ended.

Community Held Vigil at Memphis Skatepark

The family of Tyre Nichols held a prayer vigil Thursday night in honor his life.

The vigil was held at Tobey Skatepark, where reporters said hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Nichols' life.

Tyre Nichols Mother at Vigil
Attendees at Tyre Nichols Vigil
Vigil for Tyre Nichols
Sign at Tyre Nichols Vigil

A reverend at the vigil said, "We have the gratitude of community. We don't have to grieve alone. We don't have to be enraged, alone."

Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, spoke to supporters who gathered last night.

"Our family is grief-stricken right now, and this is very hard to swallow," she said, adding that the tape that comes out Friday will be "horrific."

Wells asked the community to be non-violent when the footage is released.

"If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully," she said.

Memphis Businesses Board Up Windows

Memphis businesses are preparing for potential blowback hours ahead of the release of body camera footage from the January 7 traffic stop by Memphis Police that preceded Tyre Nichols' death.

Some businesses in Downtown Memphis have started to board up windows and store fronts Friday afternoon, WMC-TV reports.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been collaborating with law enforcement agencies across the country ahead of the footage being made public. Police departments across the U.S. have also been preparing for potential protests later today.

The bodycam footage will be released tonight sometime after 6 p.m. local Tennessee time.

President Biden Called Tyre's Parents

President Joe Biden spoke with Tyre Nichols' mother and stepfather Friday afternoon to share his and First Lady Jill Biden's condolences for Nichols' death, according to the White House.

"During the conversation, the President commended the family's courage and strength," a White House statement said.

Ben Crump, an attorney representing Nichols' family, was also present. In the clip shared on Twitter, Biden could be heard telling Nichols' parents the comments they made during an earlier press conference were "moving."

Biden's call came just hours before the anticipated release of body camera footage recorded the day of the January 7 traffic stop by Memphis Police that preceded Nichols' death. The video is expected to be released Friday around 6 p.m. local time.

Earlier Friday, Nichols' parents called for safe and peaceful protests. Biden is echoing the family's calls for protesters to remain peaceful, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Friday afternoon briefing. Biden will be "regularly briefed" once the footage is publicly available, Jean-Pierre said.

The White House "has been in coordination with the relevant agencies to ensure they prepare if protests become violent," Jean-Pierre said, adding that this type of communication "is standard practice and in keeping with what the administration has done" during previous protests. Officials with Biden's administration "have been and will continue to be in touch with state and local officials on the ground as we watch the next few hours develop."

Biden has been briefed on the video but hasn't seen it, Jean-Pierre said.

In a Thursday statement, Biden said Nichols' family "deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death." He also addressed in his statement "the pain this is causing across America as, once again, we grapple with the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement are disparately impacting brown and black people," Jean-Pierre said.

Nichols Remembered as Dedicated Skateboarder

Bernice King tells the black community that they do not have to watch the video of the police incident involving Tyre Nichols when it is released to the public Friday night.

"You don't have to subject yourself to that trauma," King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., said in a tweet.

She added that it should not take a video of "a black human being dehumanized" for people to understand that police brutality is "an urgent, devastating issue."

Tyre Nichols is remembered by his family as a "beautiful soul."

"No one's perfect, but he was damn near," his mother, RowVaughn Wells, said at a news conference Friday.

Nichols' was also a "talented and dedicated" skateboarder, family attorney Ben Crump said in a tweet sharing a video of Nichols skateboarding earlier this week.

People have reshared the video on Twitter Friday ahead of the release of the footage of the incident in which Nichols was allegedly beaten by five police officers.

Many users said they wanted to show who Nichols really was before the brutal video is released.

Mother Says Tyre Called for Her During Incident

RowVaughn Wells, the mother of Tyre Nichols, said her son was calling her name during the confrontation he had with Memphis Police following a traffic stop on January 7.

"For a mother to know that their child was calling to them in their need, and I wasn't there for him—do you know how I feel right now, because I wasn't there for my son?" she said during a Friday news conference. Wells and her husband, Nichols' stepfather, both addressed the public on Friday alongside attorney Ben Crump ahead of the anticipated release of the body cam footage recorded during the incident.

Wells said she hasn't seen the video but that she heard it was "very horrific." The video is expected to be released later Friday at about 6 p.m. local time.

Wells recalled feeling "this really bad pain in my stomach" on the day of the incident before learning about what had happened.

"But once I found out what happened—that was my son's pain that I was feeling. And I didn't even know," she said.

Wells has asked for prayers for her family as they await the public reaction to the video and further developments regarding the charges filed against five Memphis police officers. Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, also urged people who decide to protest in response to the video to do so peacefully.

"Please, please protest—but protest safely," he said.

Attorneys Want Special Police Unit Disbanded

Attorneys for the family of Tyre Nichols are calling for the Memphis Police Department's SCORPION Unit to be disbanded.

During a press conference Friday, attorney Ben Crump said this unit has engaged in similar "brutality" and excessive force against black citizens prior to the Tyre Nichols incident earlier this month.

The officers involved in the incident leading to Nichols' death were part of Memphis' SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, unit.

Attorney Tony Romanucci called this an "oppression unit" that has been corrupted. He called for Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis to disband the unit immediately.

"How will the community ever, ever trust a SCORPION unit?" he asked during the press conference. "The intent was good. The end result was a failure, and we must recognize that and do something about it."

Crump said people have reached out to his office and Nichols' family in recent days to share similar experiences they've had with the special unit.

This includes a man who was confronted by the unit four or five days before Nichols' death. Crump said the officers threw this man to the ground, used profanity and held a gun to his head. After surviving the ordeal, the man tried to contact internal affairs at the police department but they ever responded, Crump said.

If they had responded, Crump said "we might not be here today."

"We have to plan to make sure any citizen who have faced the brutality of the SCORPION unit will come forward," he said.

Crump said this unit continues to "trample on the Constitutional rights" of black and brown people and that Nichols is dead because this "pattern and practice" went unchecked.

He said the swift action from Chief David should be an example for other police chiefs across the country.

While the family of Nichols is advocating for police change, Crump said policy means nothing if there is a "rotten culture" within the police department.

"You have to make sure the culture respects policy and respects the community," he said.

Crump said there is an "unwritten law" within the institutionalized police culture that allows officers to engage in unlawful excessive force against black and brown people that "cannot be tolerated."

He then led the room in a "change the culture" chant.

"There has to be a conversation or the hashtags will pile up quicker than we can keep them," he said.

Crump said Nichols can only get full justice if that culture is called out, adding that "institutionalized police culture is on trial today."

Family Wants to Enact 'Tyre's Law' for Police Reform

The family of Tyre Nichols are hoping their son's death will lead to police reform.

Family attorney Ben Crump said Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, said God used her son "as an assignment."

Crump said the family wants to create "Tyre's Law" in Tennessee to emphasize the importance of police officers' duty to intervene when a crime is committed, even when those crimes are committed by fellow officers.

"That will be the appropriate legacy that we give Tyre Nichols; if we really think we want justice for justice, it's not justice for one family, it's justice for all of us, that's want RowVaughn is praying for," Crump said.

Crump added that police should lead by example when they ask citizens to say something when a crime is committed.

"You expect people to say something, show us how to do it," he said. "People in the community would feel a lot more safe when they intervene."

'We Want Justice for My Son,' Mother Says

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, spoke publicly about their son's death during a Friday press conference held hours before the anticipated release of body cam footage from the night of Nichols' January 7 traffic stop in Memphis.

Nichols' mother said she was struggling to find the words to express her thoughts and feelings. "I still haven't had time to grieve yet," she said. "I'm still dealing with the death of my son."

RowVaughn Wells said Nichols' death "wasn't supposed to happen." He "loved me to death, and I loved him to death," she said.

RowVaughn Wells said she has not seen the body cam footage that is expected to be released around 6 p.m. local time later Friday, but that she has heard it is "very horrific."

"Any of you who have children, please don't let them see it," she said.

Nichols' mother asked for prayers for her family and the local community. She said the five former Memphis police officers who have been charged in Nichols' death "disgraced your own families" but said she would pray for them.

"At the end of the day, this shouldn't have happened," she said. "This just shouldn't have happened. We want justice for my son."

Rodney Wells said he wanted first-degree murder charges to be brought in the case but that the family was ultimately "very satisfied" with the charges that were brought against each officer, which include second-degree murder.

"The family is very satisfied with the process, with the police chief, the DA," he said. "They acted very, very quickly in this case. We are very, very pleased with that. Other cases drag on, but this is a special case."

Rodney Wells also urged people who participate in protests after the video is released to do so safely and peacefully.

"We do not want any type of uproar, we do not want any type of disturbance. We want peaceful protests," he said. "That's what the family wants. That's what the community wants."

DHS Working With Authorities Before Video Release

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is collaborating with law enforcement agencies across the country ahead of the anticipated release of the body cam footage recorded during the January 7 traffic stop of Tyre Nichols.

The footage from Memphis Police Department officers is expected to be publicly released after 6 p.m. local time on Friday.

The DHS said it "will continue working with our partners across every level of government and impacted communities to share timely information and to support efforts to keep our communities safe" in a statement shared Friday with CNN.

The Memphis community is bracing for the release of the footage and whatever public reaction may follow. Police departments in several major cities across the U.S. told CNN they are also keeping tabs on the reaction to the footage in Memphis and any subsequent protests that might erupt in their local communities.

Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, urged protesters to keep their activities peaceful during a Friday press briefing ahead of the video's release.

"We want peace," Wells said. "We do not want any type of uproar, we do not want any type of disturbance. We want peaceful protests. That's what the family wants, that's what the community wants."

Attorney Deems Case the 'Blueprint' Going Forward

The attorney for Tyre Nichols' family applauded the district attorney and police chief for their swift action in the case, calling it a "blueprint" for similar cases.

At a news conference Friday, attorney Ben Crump said he has never seen such "swift justice" employed in a case like this.

"We applaud the district attorney for bringing charges against the five officers for second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression," he said. "Very important charges against these five officers."

Crump said the DA brought charges within 20 days of the incident, noting that law enforcement can no longer drag out these types of cases.

"We want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for any time, any officers, whether they be Black or White, will be held accountable," he said. "No longer can you tell us we got to wait six months to a year even though we got a video with evidence of the excessive force in the crime."

He also thanked Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for quickly terminating the officers involved.

While this is not the first time police have committed crimes of excessive, brutal force against unarmed black people, Crump said "we have never seen swift justice like this."

He listed examples of police-involved incidents caught on camera that took months or years to be adjudicated, including Eric Garland, Pamela Turner and Jahmari Rice.

"We now have a blueprint and we won't accept less going forward," Crump said. "We won't have black officers treated differently than white officers. We want equal justice."

Crump said a precedent has now been set in Memphis and he intends to uphold this precedent across America going forward.

FBI Director 'Appalled' by Incident Video

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he has not seen the video of the incident leading to Tyre Nichols' death, but was was briefed on it.

During a press conference Friday, he called the descriptions he's been given "deeply disturbing" and "horrific."

The Justice Department opened a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Tyre Nicholas last week under the color of law statute.

Garland shared his condolences with Nichols' family and urged the public to remain peaceful and non-violent after video footage of the incident is made public.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was "appalled" by what he saw in the footage from the incident.

At the press briefing, he said the FBI has alerted field offices, especially the one in Memphis, to work with local and state law enforcement in the event protests and demonstrations "get out of hand" after the video is released.

"There is a right and a wrong way to express being upset or angry about something," he said. "We want to make sure that if there is that sentiment expressed here, it's done in the right way."

U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz of the western Tennessee district met with Nichols' family earlier this week.

He said his office is working with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division as well as the FBI and other local and state law enforcement to investigate the incident.

"The Department of Justice cares deeply about potential violations of constitutional rights, here in Memphis and throughout America," Ritz said, adding that the federal investigation will be thorough and methodical.

All Five Officers Out of Jail After Posting Bond

All five of the former Memphis police officers arrested following the January 7 traffic stop that preceded Tyre Nichols' death three days later have been released from jail after posting bond.

The former officers, who were terminated from their positions with the Memphis Police Department on January 20, face second-degree murder and aggravated assault charges, among others. They were booked into the Shelby County Jail on Thursday.

Jail records reviewed by Newsweek show two of the former officers, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, were released later Thursday, each on $250,000 bond. Another former officer, Tadarrius Bean, was also released on $250,000 bond on Friday. Former officers Demetrius Haley and Emmitt Martin III were released Friday on $350,000 bond each.

Body cam footage from the traffic stop is expected to be released later Friday. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has said Nichols' family reviewed the footage ahead of its anticipated public release.

Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, told CNN's This Morning on Friday that he has seen the video. Wells said he saw one officer in the video kick Nichols "like he was kicking a football a couple of times."

Watch: Nichols' Family to Hold News Conference

The family of Tyre Nichols is set to hold a news conferenece momentarily. Watch live below:

Attorney Ben Crump Compares Tyre to Rodney King

The family of Tyre Nichols is "relieved" that the officers involved in their son's death were terminated swiftly and will face criminal accountability, attorney Ben Crump said.

Crump, who is representing the family, told ABC that the footage of the incident will remind people of the Rodney King incident.

"Tragically, unlike Rodney King, Tyre doesn't survive," he said, adding that it is "so difficult" to watch the video.

"Even while he's being brutalized, you still see the humanity in Tyre. He was a good kid. Even though the police are saying all kinds of profane things to him, he's still asking in a calm voice 'what did I do? I just want to go home.'"

Crump said he kept waiting for one of those officers to de-escalate, "but they never do."

The incident is not only documented on police body camera footage, Crump said, adding that there is also audio of the traffic stop.

Crump also said that the race of the officers are less important than the race of the victim in these type of police-involved incidents.

"It is not the race of the police officers that is the determining factor on whether they are going to engage in excessive use of force but it is the race of the citizen," he said. "Often times it is black and brown citizens who bare the brunt of this brutality."

What Time Will Body Cam Footage Be Released?

The body cam footage showing the interaction between Memphis police officers and Tyre Nichols at the time of his traffic stop earlier this month will be released Friday evening, according to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

In a video message posted on social media Thursday, Strickland said officials first needed to "ensure the proper legal steps were followed" and allow Nichols' family to view the footage before releasing it to the public.

Now that those steps have been followed and Nichols' family has viewed the video, Strickland said the footage will be released on Friday after 6 p.m. local time.

"It is clear that these officers violated the department's policies and training. But we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again," Strickland said.

Police Chief Was 'Horrified' by Incident Footage

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis was "horrified" by the body cam footage of Tyre Nichols' arrest.

"In my 36 years, I would have to say I don't think I've ever been more horrified and disgusted, sad, but just, you know, and to some degree confused," Davis told ABC's Good Morning America.

She was confused by the level of aggression and response to what occurred in the traffic stop, adding that the real reason for the stop is still "unclear."

"As far as I know today, I do believe that the stop itself was very questionable. We have been unable to verify the reckless driving allegation," she said.

Chief Davis believes there was a sense of "group think," saying it was unfortunate that nobody stepped forward to say 'enough.'"

She told CNNshe was "outraged" by the "incomprehensible" and "unconscionable" actions seen in the video.

"I felt that I needed to do something and do something quickly," Davis said.

When the footage of the incident is made public, Chief Davis said the public will see acts that "defy humanity," demonstrate a "disregard for life" and the police's sworn duty of care.

She added that the level of physical actions that is "above and beyond what is required in law enforcement."

"Individuals watching will feel what the family felt," Davis said. "You can't help but feel their pain."

Officers Face Murder, Aggravated Kidnapping Charges

All five officers involved in the incident that led to the death of Tyre Nichols have been charged with second degree murder.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said that the officers indicted are all responsible for Nichols' death.

"While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and they are all responsible," he said at a press conference Thursday.

The charges against Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Desmond Mills include:

  • One charge of second-degree murder
  • One charge of aggravated assault in concert
  • Two charges of aggravated kidnapping
  • Two charges of official misconduct
  • One charge of official oppression

Mulroy explained that kidnapping is any unlawful confinement of another which substantially restrains someone's liberty.

"At a certain point in the sequence of events, it is our view that this, if it was a legal detention to begin with — it certainly became illegal at a certain point and it was unlawful detention," he said.

He added that the aggravated nature of the charge is because the kidnapping resulted in bodily injury and the persons involved in that unlawful restraint of liberty possessed weapons.

The District Attorney's office believes there was "no ambiguity" in the tape, adding that the tape will trigger a "serious public reaction," Mulroy told reporters Friday.

He said his office made the charges against the officers public ahead of the release of the video to set expectations and for officials to "call for calm."

Police Dept to Undergo Independent Review, Mayor Says

The mayor of Memphis said "transparency and swift methodical action" have been top priorities for his office because Tyre Nichols deserves "nothing less."

In a statement Thursday night, Mayor Jim Strickland said the actions of the five police officers were "awful," adding that "no one is above the law."

"I assure you we will do everything we can to keep this type of heinous act from happening again," he said.

Strickland thanked Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for moving quickly to fire the officers involved and District Attorney Mulroy for taking "deliberate actions" in bringing the indictments forward.

"We have worked to get a resolution to these matters in record time because we take them extremely seriously," he said.

Strickland said Nichols' family would have the opportunity to view the video footage of the incident privately before it is released to the public.

He said it sis "clear" that the officers violated the department's policies and training and it working to prevent this from happening again. The police department will undergo an outside, independent review of its training, policies and operations.

"I am sad and angry for the family of Tyre Nichols. I am also angry for the many good men and women of the Memphis Police Department who devote their lives to serving our citizens," Strickland said. "We must all work to regain the public's trust and work together to heal the wounds these events have caused."

Mother of Tyre Nichols Speaks Out

Tyre Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, has said she will "never have my baby again" during an interview ahead of body cam footage being released.

Wells told CNN that she'd hoped for first degree murder charges for the five officers involved in the arrest, but added: "The charges that were filed against those officers are good charges, those are the charges that I feel will stick and so I'm happy with the charges that the district attorney has set forth."

Describing the loss of her son, Wells said: "This is hard, no I don't have my baby. I'll never have my baby again.

"But I do know that he was a good person and that all the good in Tyre will come out and so that's what keeps me going because, I just feel like my son was sent here on assignment from God and his assignment is over and he was sent back home."

Tyre Nichols Called Out 'For His Mother' During Police Stop

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said Tyre Nichols called out "for his mother" during the police interaction which led to his death.

She made the admission to CNN in an interview broadcast on Friday morning.

Davis has already viewed the officers' bodycam footage, which will be released to the public later today.

Discussing the footage, Davis said: "That's why this incident, not just that but just the disregard for humanity as I've mentioned before, I think that's what really just pulls at your heart strings and makes you wonder why was a sense of care and concern for this individual just absent from this situation."

During the interview Davis was also asked if she knew "what sparked the confrontation" between officers and Nichols.

She replied: "I think that's the piece that is just unknown, no one knows."

Memphis Schools Cancel Activities

Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) have cancelled all events after 5pm due to safety fears relating to the release of the Tyre Nichols' arrest footage.

YCare and athletic events have been cancelled, with the school district's Family Wellness Centers also closing at 5pm.

In a statement MSCS said: "We are taking these measures out of an abundance of caution as we reflect on and work through a difficult moment for our community."

The organization added it will be "monitoring" the situation and will make a decision by 10 p.m. tonight on whether extra-curricular school events will be allowed to take place on Saturday.

Tyre Nichols 'Reckless Driving' Claim

Memphis police have been unable to "substantiate" the claim Tyre Nichols was driving recklessly when pulled over by officers, despite this being the reason given for the traffic stop.

The force's chief CJ Davis made the admission during an appearance on CNN this morning.

Speaking to broadcaster Don Lemon she said: "We have not been able to substantiate reckless driving."

On Thursday Davis described the events leading to Nichols death as "a failing of basic humanity," and said her department is seeking to "find truth in the tragic loss."

She added a "complete and independent review" would be conducted into all of the Memphis Police Department's specialized units.

SWAT Vehicles Positioned in Memphis

Police bodycam footage of the interaction that led to Tyre Nichols death is being released late on Friday to give workers time to leave downtown buildings, according to local journalist Jason Steen.

He tweeted: "A Memphis PD [police department] source now confirms what we already knew - the delay in releasing the #TyreNichols footage to late Friday was to allow all employees to leave downtown in fear their building would be surrounded and they'd be trapped inside. SWAT vehicles will line the perimeter."

Steen also said "initial crowd control" would be handled by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, not Memphis police, which authorities fear would "escalate interactions."

Police in Major U.S. Cities Brace for Violent Protests

Police forces across the United States are preparing for protests later today, around the expected release of body cam footage showing the police interaction that led to Tyre Nichols' death.

In Washington D.C. the Metropolitan Police Department "has fully activated all sworn personnel in preparation for possible First Amendment activities in the District of Columbia."

Also in D.C, Politico reports Capitol Police are expected to boost their presence around the Capitol Hill area.

San Francisco Police said they are "closely monitoring the events," and are ready to "respond to any development that may occur as a result of the incident."

The New York Police Department said it had "heightened security at police station houses," and would deploy additional resources at "top spots," including Times Square.

Biden Advises 'Peaceful Protest' Ahead of Video Release

President Biden has released a statement "calling for peaceful protest" and warning against violence, ahead of the release of police body cam footage showing the traffic stop that led to Tyre Nichols' death.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the president said: "Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre's family deserve a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death."

Biden added: "I join Tyre's family is calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice."