Memphis braces for protests ahead of Tyre Nichols bodycam release

(NewsNation) — Leaders from local Memphis police all the way up to President Joe Biden are pleading for peace ahead of what is expected to be divisive footage of a man’s arrest released Friday evening.

Tyre Nichols was beaten during a traffic stop on Jan. 7 and died in police custody three days later. All five officers involved in his arrest are facing murder charges.

The bodycam video of his arrest is expected to be released after 6 p.m. local time. Memphis Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch called the video “appalling.”

“Let me be clear,” Rausch told reporters, “What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal.”

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis called the video, “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

The state of alert goes beyond Memphis. Metro police department in Washington, D.C. has activated all sworn personnel in the event of riots. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a state of emergency, allowing his office to deploy National Guard troops if things get out of hand.

Biden released a statement calling for a thorough investigation, while calling for peace.

“Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable,” the statement said. “Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”

The five fired police officers are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith. They are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Lawyers representing two of the ex-officers said their clients are innocent until proven guilty, and added this case could be a catalyst for change.

The officers were assigned to a team called Scorpion Squad. It’s a specialized unit started in 2021 to fight crime by targeting problem areas in the city and flooding them with officers. They often work undercover in unmarked cars.

The attorneys representing the Nichols family are calling into question the operations of this unit, wondering why those officers are even conducting traffic stops.

The Memphis Police Department is now conducting an internal review of the Scorpion Squad and other specialized units.