Cities across America are bracing for a potential repeat of the summer of 2020 amid fears of angry protests and violent riots following a fatal officer-involved beating of a black man in Memphis, Tennessee, Fox News reported.
Bodycam footage of the deadly incident that occurred nearly three weeks ago is expected to be publicly released Friday evening, and that has police departments in major cities across the nation in anticipation of possible civil unrest.
According to CNN, 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was pulled over for reckless driving on Jan. 7 and then fled on foot after an initial "confrontation" with Memphis Police, who gave chase and caught Nichols and engaged in a second "confrontation" that resulted in Nichols being hospitalized in critical condition with serious injuries that he ultimately died from three days later on Jan. 10.
Five of the Memphis officers involved in the incident, all of whom are black men, were fired by the department and now face a slew of criminal charges including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. They also face potential federal civil rights violation charges as well.
The outlet noted that parts of the incident, particularly the second confrontation during which the beating occurred, was captured by bodycams worn by the officers as well as a pole-mounted surveillance camera in the area, and that video is expected to be released to the public on Friday evening.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch called the incident "absolutely appalling," while Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis described it as "heinous, reckless, and inhumane" and a "failing of basic humanity toward another individual."
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and personal injury attorney Antonio Romanucci, who were hired to represent the Nichols family, watched the video and likened the beating to that of Rodney King in 1991 in Los Angeles, California, which ultimately resulted in deadly and destructive riots in April 1992 when the officers involved in that incident were acquitted.
NEWS ALERT: @AttorneyCrump and attorney @TonyRomanucci have issued a statement following viewing the police body camera footage from the night that Tyre Nichols died after an encounter with @MEM_PoliceDept pic.twitter.com/wJSu67fecx
— Ben Crump Law, PLLC (@BenCrumpLaw) January 23, 2023
CNN reported that Romanucci described the roughly three-minute-long beating of Nichols as "savage" and asserted that Nichols had been beaten, kicked, pepper-sprayed, and tased, all while he was "defenseless" and "restrained" on the ground and being used as a "human piñata" by the accused officers.
While police departments nationwide go on alert for possible unrest and violence this weekend, the mother of the victim has urged everyone outraged over her son's unjust death to remain peaceful in protest, according to local CBS affiliate WREG.
"I want each and every one of you to protest in peace. I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets because that is not what my son stood for," Rowvaughn Wells told the crowd Thursday night at a candlelight vigil for her son Nichols at a local skatepark he frequented.
"If you guys are here for Tyre and me, then you will protest peacefully," she insisted, and later added, "You can get your point across, but we don’t need to tear up our city, people, because we do have to live in them."
Fear of the potential for a repeat of 2020's nationwide unrest following the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has also apparently reached the White House, as President Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday in regard to the Nichols case.
"As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest," Biden said. "Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice."