On January 7, a 29-year-old black man was stopped by police officers at a Memphis traffic stop. Three days later, Tire Nichols is dead. Now the city in the US state of Tennessee has published videos of the brutal police operation for the first time.
The recordings of so-called bodycams of the officers involved - also black - as well as the surveillance video of a traffic camera show images that are difficult to bear. Tire Nichols screaming for his mother. Police officers who hold him to the ground and hit him several times - including in the face. Paramedics arriving at the scene but not immediately providing first aid.
But from the beginning: A timeline of the events of January 7th and developments in the days and weeks thereafter.
At 8:24 p.m., Tire Nichols is stopped by police officers at a traffic stop in the residential area of Whitehaven. At the intersection of East Raines Road and Ross Road, officers pull him out of the car and push him down. They keep yelling at him to get down on the floor - even though he's already lying there. Nichols repeatedly asks the cops to stop, shouting "I didn't do anything". First, it is said that Nichols was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Later, however, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said in an interview with NBC that they couldn't confirm exactly why Nichols was pulled over.
A minute later the first fight ensues. Several officers attempt to force Nichols to the ground while shouting profanities and threats. Nichols is heard saying, "okay, I'm down," and "you guys are doing really well right now. I'm just trying to go home." Seconds later, the police officers try to calm him down with an electric baton. Eventually, Nichols breaks free and attempts to flee on foot. At least two officers run after him.
Around 8:29 p.m. reinforcements arrive. At least two police cars pull up at the intersection where Nichols was first stopped. The police officers ask about his whereabouts. An audio recording from the Memphis Police Operations Center can be heard as an officer calls for backup: "Any other Scorpion cars: Go to East Raines and Ross. We have a fugitive on foot." The "Scorpion" police unit was formed in Memphis in October 2021 as a result of increasing violent crime. "Scorpion" stands for "Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods". Their mission is to curb homicides, break-ins and robberies.
It's around 8:33 p.m. when Nichols is caught by officers at another crossroads. From three different perspectives - also recorded by a permanently installed camera on a street lamp - you can see how the situation escalates completely. "Hit him," yells a police officer. Two officers hold Nichols while the others brutally beat him with their fists and a baton. At least one of the police officers repeatedly hits him on the head and kicks him in the face. Several times, Nichols loudly yells "Mom". His mother's house is only 55 meters away.
A video shows a police officer spraying something in his face. Nichols groans and tries to wipe his face. "Give me your hands!" screamed the officers. "Alright, alright," he says, moving slightly to put his hands behind his back. "Look out, I'll spray your eyes again," an officer threatens while spraying Nichols again.
The fight lasts about three minutes.
Finally, at around 8:37 p.m., Nichols is handcuffed. He is apparently seriously injured and is no longer moving. Officers drag him to an emergency vehicle parked nearby and lean him against the side of the car. At some point Nichols falls to the ground, an officer supports him again with his back against the car.
After a few minutes, at around 8:41 p.m., two paramedics arrive at the scene. They check on Nichols, but don't seem to be in a hurry. It wasn't until 16 minutes later that they opened their doctor's kit for the first time and provided first aid. More minutes pass before officials bring a stretcher. At around 9:02 p.m., an ambulance came.
It is 9:18 p.m. when Nichols is transported to St. Francis Hospital, about six miles away. In the ambulance he complains of shortness of breath.
Three days later, on January 10, Nichols succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. An autopsy report states that he "suffered profuse bleeding caused by severe beatings".
The five police officers involved have since been released from service and arrested. They are charged with murder and other criminal offenses. After the video footage was released, the county sheriff announced Friday that two other officers who were also at the scene have been released from duty. An internal investigation is ongoing. Two firefighters are also under investigation, reports "CNN".
Deadly police violence with predominantly black victims occurs again and again in the USA. But the brutal recordings in the case of Tire Nichols cause particular horror across the country. US President Joe Biden is also shocked. The incident reminded him of the deep fear, trauma, pain and exhaustion that many black Americans feel every day.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in Memphis and other major cities on Friday night to protest police brutality. Many are holding signs. They demand: "Justice for Tyre".
Sources: NY Times, Reuters, CNN, with DPA news agency footage