The daughter of Rodney King is expected to join community leaders in Los Angeles when they gather Friday in Leimert Park ahead of the release of a video that shows five Memphis officers beating Tire Nichols during a traffic stop.
Nichols died three days after the confrontation earlier this month. The five ex-officers were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes.
Nichols’ family members and their lawyers said the body-cam footage shows officers beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes in an assault that the legal team likened to the infamous police beating of King. The 1991 beating on the side of a Southern California freeway was recorded by a witness, George Holliday, who grabbed his video camera when he was awakened by the traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home.
The beating the the Los Angeles officers’ subsequent acquittal ignited days of unrest and violence more than three decades ago. King’s daughter Lora Dene King, who was 7 at the time, released a statement about the Nichols case earlier this week.
“This is extremely sickening,” she said in the statement. “We should not have to witness such things in this world over and over with a different name behind the hashtags. Watching these type of videos has become very disturbing. It triggers past beatings often in comparison to my father’s brutal 1991 beating with the LAPD
“This is something I will never understand. I wish to send the family God’s Grace and mercy and strength to keep his legacy and good deeds alive as well. I am happy to know he loved skate boarding like my father. I hope his family find strength the most; in the days to come.”
King, who started the Rodney King Foundation to feed the poor, mentor inner city youth, and provide scholarships, is expected to join Southern California community leaders Friday.
Video of the Memphis beating is expected to be released on YouTube around 4 pm California time. An attorney for Nichols’ family described the video as three minutes of “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating” after a private viewing.
In an interview with TMZ, King was asked what she would tell Nichols family.
“I’m lost for words,” she said. “I’m numb. There’s nothing I can say to prepare them.
“I’m sure at that moment when they found out he was no longer here, I’m sure it was an indescribable feeling. They have to live the rest of their lives without saying good-bye.”
Rodney King died in 2012 in an accidental drowning in his pool.
Nichol’s family urged supporters to protest peacefully.
“If there are any protests, I would like them to be peaceful,” said Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, who has already seen the video.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told a news conference that although the officers each played different roles in the killing, “they are all responsible.” The officers, who are all Black, each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis said she expected protests after the release of video showing officers’ actions, which she described as “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” but she also urged the community to remain peaceful.
Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other counts related to the the death of Tire Nichols.
“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand actions and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process,” she said. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”
Davis said Friday that her department has been unable to substantiate the reckless driving allegation that prompted the stop.
Video of the Jan. 7 traffic stop will be released to the public sometime Friday evening, Mulroy said, noting that local and state investigators wanted to complete as many interviews as possible before releasing it.
As a precaution, Memphis area schools canceled all after-class activities and postponed a school event scheduled for Saturday morning.
Nichols’ stepfather told The Associated Press by phone that he and his wife, RowVaughn Wells, who is Nichols’ mother, discussed the second-degree murder charges and are “fine with it.” They had sought first-degree murder charges.
“There’s other charges, so I’m all right with that,” he said.
The Wells were joined by several dozen supporters on a cold Thursday night for a candlelight vigil and prayer service at a Memphis skate park. Nichols, who had a 4-year-old son, was an avid skateboarder.
RowVaughn Wells, who said her family is “grief-stricken,” warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video set to be released Friday, but like Davis, pleaded for peaceful protests.
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
Activists and clergy led the group in prayer and a drummer played a steady rhythm to lead into the spoken part of the vigil. Afterward, skaters rode their boards as the Wellses watched.
Court records showed that all five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody.
Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, confirmed that his client had turned himself in. He and Mills’ lawyer, Blake Ballin, said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Smith, Bean and Haley could not be reached.
“No one out there that night intended for Tire Nichols to die,” Massey said.
Both lawyers said they had not seen the video.
“We are in the dark about many things, just like the general public is,” Ballin said.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
The attorneys for Nichols’ family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement saying that Nichols “lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop.”
At the White House, President Joe Biden said the Nichols family and the city of Memphis deserve “a swift, full and transparent investigation.”
“Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken,” Biden said in a statement.
Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a complete and independent review” will be conducted by the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.
Two fire department workers were also removed from duty over the Nichols’ arrest.
As state and federal investigations continue, Davis promised the police department’s “full and complete cooperation” to determine what contributed to Nichols’ Jan. 10 death.
Crump said the video showed that Nichols was shocked, pepper-sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over near his home. He was returning home from a suburban park where he had taken photos of the sunset.
Police have said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving and at some point fled from the scene.
Relatives have accused the police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
One of the officers, Haley, was previously accused of using excessive force. He was named as a defendant in a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit while employed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections.
The claims were ultimately dismissed after a judge ruled that Sledge had failed to file a grievance against the officers within 30 days of the incident.
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