Relatives said Nichols died of kidney failure and cardiac arrest on Jan. 10, three days after his meeting with officers. A police spokesman said officers detained Nichols for reckless driving and that Nichols fled on foot before eventually being arrested.
“What I saw on video today was horrific,” Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “No father or mother should see what we had to see today. Justice is Murder One for us. We will not accept anything less than that.”
The department has said it will release video footage of the arrest to the public after the family has had a chance to view it, but has not given a more specific timeline.
“An early release could negatively impact the criminal investigation and legal process,” Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said in a statement Monday.
Nichols, 29, was a father to a four-year-old boy, a skateboarder and — like his stepfather — a FedEx employee who worked an afternoon-evening shift. After seeing the footage, his stepfather said he believes Nichols fled from traffic control officers because he feared for his life at the hands of the police.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, representing the family, said of the footage: “It’s horrifying. It’s regrettable. It’s gruesome. It’s violent.”
Co-lawyer Antonio Romanucci described Nichols as a “human piñata to these cops.” As he spoke, Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, burst into tears and cried, “My God!”
Crump said the Shelby County District Attorney told him and Nichols’ family members that the video would not be released for another one to two weeks while the investigation is ongoing. As the police chief prepared the family to watch the video, Crump said, she told them, “I’m not proud of what you’re about to see.”
Nichols’ family has protested the nearly two weeks since his death, demanding the department release surveillance and body camera footage and calling for the officers to be charged criminally. They shared a photo of Nichols’ scarred face as he lay in a hospital bed before his death.
His mother said Nichols suffered from Crohn’s disease and weighed no more than 145 pounds. “Nobody’s perfect, but he was damn close. My son loved me to death,” she said. “My son did not use drugs. He didn’t kill anyone. He didn’t like confrontations.”
The Justice Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are conducting separate investigations into the arrest.
The Memphis Police Department announced the firing of the five officers on Friday night — a relatively quick decision compared to most other administrative investigations conducted after deaths in police custody across the United States. The department’s investigation found that the officers — all of whom are black — used excessive force, failed to intervene, and failed to provide assistance, in violation of department policy.
The Officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith – each joined the department in the past five years.
Karen D. Camper (D), the minority leader in Tennessee House, whose district includes much of Memphis, praised what she described as Davis’s “quick, decisive” action to fire the officers. The revelation that all five of them are black has stirred up complicated emotions, she said.
“I think the people of Memphis were surprised,” Camper said. “They were deeply saddened by it, and to some extent people were shocked because of whatever their own perception was. How that ultimately changes the reaction, I don’t know.”
Crump said he felt a responsibility to fight for the constitutional rights of Americans injured by police, regardless of the officer’s race.
“What I’ve learned from doing this civil rights work against excessive force is that the race of the police officer is not the determinant of the amount of excessive force,” Crump said. “It’s the race of the policeman.” the citizen.”