What you need to know about the Tyre Nichols killing and police videos

A man holds an enlarged photograph of a man with a breathing tube in a hospital bed.
An image provided by WREG-TV Channel 3 in Memphis shows Rodney Wells, center, beside of a photo of his stepson Tyre Nichols in a hospital bed.
(Jordan James / Associated Press)

The city of Memphis released video Friday showing Tyre Nichols being shot with a Taser, pepper-sprayed, beaten and restrained for three minutes by police officers in a case that is being closely watched across the country.

The video was released after 4 p.m. Pacific time.

Here is what we know about the beating, which put Nichols in the hospital, where he died three days later:

What happened in the police encounter?

Nichols was pulled over Jan. 7 and arrested on suspicion of reckless driving, according to Memphis police. Nichols’ family’s attorneys say they believe he was stopped for driving the wrong way on a one-way street.


Officers and Nichols were just 100 yards from the home of Nichols’ parents during the encounter, according to Jennifer McGuffin, the chief spokesperson for Romanucci & Blandon, the law firm representing the family.

When officers approached Nichols’ car, a confrontation occurred, and Nichols ran off, police said.

Five fired officers have been charged with second-degree murder, official misconduct, official oppression, aggravated assault while acting in concert, and aggravated kidnapping.

Jan. 26, 2023

Attorney Antonio Romanucci — who had seen portions of the police body-camera video before its public release — said Nichols asked why he was being pulled over during the initial stop. Officers quickly used pepper spray on him, and he fled from his car, Romanucci said.

The police officers pursued Nichols, and another, more violent, confrontation took place, leading to Nichols’ arrest and hospitalization, police said.

Romanucci said that although five police officers were charged, there were more officers on scene. He estimated that 10 to 12 officers were in the video. Nichols can be heard in the video screaming, “What did I do?” and calling for his mother.

The city of Memphis plans to release around an hour of footage after 4 p.m. Pacific time showing what the police chief called the “inhumane” actions of officers toward Nichols after a traffic stop.

Jan. 27, 2023

What does the video show?

The video — which includes numerous angles from police body-camera footage — shows the violent encounter between Nichols and the officers during his Jan. 7 arrest, which stemmed from a traffic stop.


The video formed the basis of murder charges that were filed Thursday against five fired Memphis police officers from the department’s controversial “SCORPION” unit.

What happened to the officers?

All five were fired less than two weeks after the encounter with Nichols.

On Thursday, the officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, all of whom are Black — were each charged with one count of second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, one count of aggravated assault while acting in concert, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping in the death of Nichols.

The city of Memphis has released the video showing the actions of officers while arresting Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop on Jan. 7.

Jan. 27, 2023

The SCORPION unit identifies high-crime areas using data and sends teams to those locations. It was not immediately clear why SCORPION officers were the ones who pulled Nichols over. But the unit has come under fire from activists who say it has not brought down crime and mostly targets low-income residents.

What do we know about Nichols?

Nichols, a California native and father of a 4-year-old son, grew up in Sacramento and had recently moved to Memphis to work for FedEx. He loved to skateboard and practiced photography, according to his family.

Nichols’ aunt, Kandi Green, said in an interview with The Times that he had a bright smile and warm personality.


“He just had one of those spirits, one of those personalities that would draw you to him,” Green said. “He was a sweetheart. Every time you seen him, he had a smile on his face. ... Never had a criminal record. Never been in any type of trouble. All-around good kid.”

Asked about the charges against the officers, she added: “I’m excited. It shows that justice is being served. It doesn’t matter the color of the officers. The fact is, the officers did what they did, and it was unnecessary.”

What is the SCORPION unit?

The SCORPION unit — which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods — is a specialized group of four roving 10-person teams that use data to target high-crime neighborhoods in Memphis with the goal of addressing homicides and other violent crime. In just a few months, the unit had made 566 arrests and seized more than 250 weapons.

Nichols death after his encounter with SCORPION officers has reinvigorated critiques of specialized anti-crime teams across the country and could result in the disbanding of SCORPION.