Tyre Nichols death: FBI director 'appalled' by video of police beating

Footage of the 29-year-old’s fatal encounter with five Memphis officers was released Friday evening.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Friday that body camera footage of the beating of Tyre Nichols by police in Memphis left him horrified.

“I have seen the video myself, and I will tell you, I was appalled,” Wray told reporters at a news conference at the Justice Department. “I'm struggling to find a stronger word, but I would just tell you, I was appalled.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he had not seen the footage himself but that the descriptions he was given sounded “horrific.”

Christopher Wray at the podium, marked Department of Justice, with Merrick Garland standing behind him.
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at a news conference Friday at the Justice Department with Attorney General Merrick Garland behind him. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“I want to give my deepest condolences to Tyre Nichols's family,” Garland said. “I can't imagine the feelings parents must feel under these circumstances.”

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died three days after his Jan. 7 arrest following a traffic stop. Five officers who were fired in the wake of his death were charged Thursday with second-degree murder. All five are Black.

Last week, the Justice Department launched a separate federal civil rights investigation into the matter.

The comments by the top Justice Department officials came hours before Memphis officials were scheduled to release the video of Nichols’s encounter with police, as cities around the country braced for protests.

The video was posted online at 6 p.m. Central Time on Friday evening. It shows officers repeatedly punching and kicking a defenseless Nichols and beating him with batons and using pepper spray on his face.

Rodney Wells, outside, surrounded by cars, protesters and media microphones, holds a poster showing Tyre Nichols, his face covered with dark bruises, in a hospital bed on life support.
At a protest in Memphis on Jan. 14, Rodney Wells holds a poster showing his stepson, Tyre Nichols, in the hospital after his arrest. (Jordan James/WREG via AP)

Garland and Wray joined President Biden and the Nichols family in urging would-be protesters to remain peaceful.

“I want to repeat what the family has said: that expressions of concern when people see this video, we urge that they be peaceful and nonviolent,” Garland said. “That's what the family has urged, and that, of course, is what the Justice Department urges as well.”

A portrait in a black frame of Tyre Nichols, looking upbeat in vest, tie and white shirt, is propped on the floor in front of some audio equipment and seating.
A portrait of Tyre Nichols is displayed at a memorial service for him in Memphis on Jan. 17. (Adrian Sainz/AP)

Wray said that FBI field offices around the country will be monitoring any protests for possible violence.

“There's a right way and a wrong way in this country to express being upset or angry about something,” Wray added. “And we need to make sure that if there is that sentiment expressed here, it's done in the right way.”

Mug shots in civilian clothes of the five Memphis police officers accused in the death of Tyre Nichols.
Mug shots of the Memphis police officers accused in the death of Tyre Nichols, from left: Desmond Mills Jr., Demetrius Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Memphis Police Department)

Earlier this week, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis released a video statement, calling the beating of Nichols “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

“This is not just a professional failing,” Davis said. “This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. They failed our community, and they failed the Nichols family. That is beyond regrettable.”