Video shows Memphis police violently beating Tyre Nichols in the traffic stop that led to his death
On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast:
The country is again grappling with police reform after 28 year old Tyre Nichols was beaten and later died by five police officers. Commercial Appeal Content Editor Brett Barrouquere has the latest including nationwide protests this weekend. Plus the video on the attack on Paul Pelosi is released, The Republican National Committee re-elects Ronna McDaniel to a fourth term as the RNC grapples with the future of Trump and four teams battle for a spot in the Super Bowl.
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Taylor Wilson: Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things You Need to Know, Saturday the 28th of January 2023. Today the latest from Memphis after video is released showing the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols, plus what's next for police reform. And the Republican National Committee grapples with the future of Trump.
Video released yesterday shows Memphis police officers brutally beating a 29-year-old black man shouting expletives and using pepper spray and a baton on him while he called out for his mother. The traffic stop left Tyre Nichols hospitalized and three days later, dead. Police hit him at least 13 times, kicking his face and punching his head and chest.
After the beating as he sat propped up, moaning in pain, police gathered nearby, calling him names, checking on each other and laughing. The five officers were fired last week and charged on Thursday with second degree murder. Tyre Nichols was an avid skateboarder and FedEx worker with a four-year-old son. Protests are expected this weekend in Memphis and around the country. For more on what the scene was like last night in Memphis, I caught up with commercial appeal content editor Brett Barrouquere. Brett, thank you so much for coming on 5 Things.
Brett Barrouque...: Glad to do it.
Taylor Wilson: I just want to get the initial reaction from the ground there in Memphis. What's it like on the streets right now?
Brett Barrouque...: We have one major protest happening right now and that is a group of people who have blocked traffic on the I55 bridge between Memphis and Arkansas. They're stopping 18 wheelers, they're stopping all and anything that tries to come over the bridge. It's been peaceful.
We've been hearing for several days just how awful folks who had seen this video thought it to be. And I think a lot of people are realizing that that's an accurate description. As far as the protests out on the bridge, they're chanting, they're demanding the Memphis Mayor come out and talk to them. There's no riots in the streets, mostly people just blocking a major road at the moment.
Taylor Wilson: And what is the police response looking like to that blockade in particular and in general?
Brett Barrouque...: We spoke with both the Mayor and police chief earlier today and we asked them, "Why are you all releasing this after six o'clock on a Friday night?" And that was in part because they anticipated protest and they had officers ready to go in case things got fired up and riled up. For the moment, the police seem to be letting the protestors do their thing. They haven't started a confrontation.
There's been no real interaction between police and the protestors from what the reporters on the scene have told me. But the police and the city tell us they were ready. They released this video late so people could get home from downtown and schools, Memphis, Shelby County schools called off all after school activities. There's no high school basketball here tonight, and that's unusual for Memphis on a Friday night in January.
Taylor Wilson: So in addition to Memphis, other cities around the country, Brett, have protests planned this weekend. Some are already underway. Do you feel like this may become another national tipping point similar to the George Floyd protests, similar to Ferguson, some of these other movements that we've seen in recent years?
Brett Barrouque...: It's certainly shaping up that way. The entire USA today network has been monitoring protests around the country. We're getting lots of reaction from a lot of very prominent people. This could be spurring more of the same conversation we saw after George Floyd was killed. Obviously, we'll see how that plays out over the next few days and coming weeks, but at least early on it's got the stirrings of doing that.
Taylor Wilson: Brett, do you have any sense where the family of Tyre Nichols is tonight and what they're saying in the wake of this video and ahead of potential protests?
Brett Barrouque...: Yeah, they actually spoke earlier today at a local church. In fact, it's the church where Tyre's funeral's going to be on Wednesday. Most of the family has seen the video. A couple of them didn't want to see it. And if you see the video you'll understand that sentiment.
But they have described Tyre as peaceful, as a free spirit, as someone you who was joyful to be around. And they said, keep that in mind as we go forward after this video. That's more or less what they said. And they called for peaceful protest. We believe some of his family is here, some of his family lives in California. We believe they're all, the ones who are from, are living in Memphis are here tonight.
Taylor Wilson: So the Mayor of Memphis said on Friday afternoon before this video was released, that the unit called Scorpion that's tied to the officers charged in Tyre's death has been deactivated. What can you tell us about that and what'll happen next in the investigation of these five former officers?
Brett Barrouque...: The Scorpion unit was formed just maybe two years ago. The Mayor has shut it down. The police chief tells us all these specialized units are under review. Given what happened here, she's saying she's got an outside group coming in to take a look at how this all operates. We don't know how long that review's going to take or where it's going to lead. I would not expect to hear Scorpion is back in action anytime soon if it ever comes back in action.
As far as the investigations of the officers, they were all indicted, booked into the jail the other day. They've all since bonded out. The next step for them is their first appearance in court, and that's in right about three weeks. At that point, they'll face a judge, but they're also facing investigation by the FBI and that involves civil rights violations in this case. We do not know the status of that other than the FBI is investigating.
Taylor Wilson: All right, Brett, fantastic info and insight there from the ground in Memphis. Really appreciate you carving out some time on a busy night. Thank you so much.
Brett Barrouque...: Glad to help, anytime.
Taylor Wilson: For all the latest stay with USAtoday.com. Two and a half years after the murder of George Floyd, the country is again grappling with police reform and how to go about it. For more, I spoke with Dr. Rashawn Ray, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Ray, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate you.
Dr. Rashawn Ray: Thank you so much for having me on.
Taylor Wilson: So obviously this incident in Memphis surrounding the traffic stop and death of Tyre Nichols is just the latest incident of police brutality like this. I want to start just by talking about traffic stops specifically, particularly for people of color. What can we do to make these stops less dangerous?
Dr. Rashawn Ray: Well, first, I'm a Tennessean. I went to college at the University of Memphis. I mean, this incident like so many others, and it hits home in a very, very deep way. I think when it comes to traffic stops, what the research documents is that overwhelmingly traffic stops do not go violent, but traffic stops are oftentimes the main gateway by which individuals interact with law enforcement.
And the other big thing that research documents is that law enforcement oftentimes faces physical harm due to the fact that they are pulling people over on roadways. So other cars are passing by is very loud. That is a very stressful environment.
With that being said, research definitely documents that black motorist are significantly more likely to be pulled over than white motorist, significantly more likely to be searched, significantly more likely to be pulled out of their vehicle, and significantly more likely to have force used on them even when they are unarmed and not attacking. And I think that becomes extremely, extremely important for people to make sense of.
Taylor Wilson: It's been about two and a half years since the murder of George Floyd. We've of course, seen widespread protests since then, we've seen widespread calls for police reform. Why are we not there yet?
Dr. Rashawn Ray: Well, look, I think the biggest thing is that the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act never came up for a vote in the Senate. It passed the House of Representatives. Overwhelmingly Republicans and Democrats agreed on that. I had several conversations with elected officials about the importance of this legislation.
And there were several components, low-hanging fruits that states and localities have actually started implementing, whether that be implicit bias trainings, body-worn cameras banning no-knock warrants. But in the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, there was some very, very important pieces of legislation. The first was dealing around data.
In many regards, police departments are not collecting and collating data on police behavior, not just police shootings and use of force, but even positive outcomes. The second big thing was that the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act was dealing with certification, trying to ensure that if you are in Memphis, Tennessee or Washington DC or Oakland, California, that you need a particular certification to be a law enforcement officer.
And then the third big thing was dealing with qualified immunity. And in this case of Memphis with Tyre Nichols, eventually not only have these officers been charged and potentially convicted of murder, but also there will be a large civil settlement that his family will receive.
And some of his tax money as well as the tax money of his family members will be used to pay that civil settlement instead of a police department insurance policy or even police officer liability insurance like we've been seeing in the state of Colorado and Denver and some other places that I think will really lead to an increased level of accountability.
Taylor Wilson: So the BLM movement and others have felt like tipping points in recent years really for the past decade at this point. How do you see the act of protests going forward surrounding this issue?
Dr. Rashawn Ray: So I've studied and written extensively about the movement for Black Lives and the Black Lives Matter movement, and I think what people have to realize about social movements is that they ebb and flow. I think the big thing is that the Black Lives Matter movement has mattered in a lot of ways.
I mean, we probably wouldn't be having this particular conversation in this way if it wasn't for that elevation highlighting things on social media. I mean, what we've seen with the Movement for Black Lives is similar to the Civil Rights Movement where what was the next step? The next step for a lot of individuals was trying to make broader change, and that meant going into politics.
So we're seeing from Cori Bush, we're seeing from other individuals that we can name starting to run for public office, I think in Memphis, again, in a city that I know well, that there are definitely individuals there and even in Nashville down the road that are doing such powerful work to try to transform their own communities, not only in holding police officers accountable, but also to address crime that's happening in local communities.
Taylor Wilson: All right. Dr. Rashawn Ray, senior fellow from the Brookings Institution, fantastic perspective on all this. We really appreciate your time. Thanks so much.
Dr. Rashawn Ray: Thank you for having me.
Taylor Wilson: Video footage of the attack on Paul Pelosi was released to the public yesterday. Body camera footage from police responding to the incident last October shows a confrontation between the attacker and Pelosi husband, a former house speaker, Nancy Pelosi. The video shows the attacker rip a hammer from 82-year-old Paul Pelosi before lunching toward him.
A blow to Pelosi later happens out of view and apparently unconscious. He can be seen laying face down on the floor in his pajamas. 42-year-old David DePape is accused of breaking into the Pelosi's home with a political vendetta. He pleaded not guilty last month to six charges, including attempted murder.
The Republican National Committee reelected Ronna McDaniel to a fourth term yesterday. In the win, she passed over challengers who wanted to move the party further to the right and create a tighter alliance with former President Donald Trump. Though McDaniel herself was first nominated for the job by Trump in 2016.
Trump backers, California attorney, Harmeet Dhillon and My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, challenged McDaniel by arguing the party needs new leadership after losing the presidency and the Senate in the past two elections. For his part, Trump stayed neutral in the race, but he remains the elephant in the room for the Republican Party.
It's still not clear who will emerge as the party's front runner in 2024, be it him, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or someone else. But a survey of all 168 RNC members found just four had an unabashed endorsement of Trump's campaign. And then there were four. It's championship Sunday tomorrow in the NFL when the Super Bowl matchup will be set.
First up, the San Francisco 49ers head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles at 3:00 PM Eastern in the NFC Championship game, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals in Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in the AFC at 6:30. All eyes are on Star Chief's quarterback, Patrick Mahomes high ankle sprain that limited him last weekend. You can find more coverage from USA Today Sports.
And thanks for listening to 5 Things. We're here every morning of the week right here, wherever you're listening right now. James Brown is back with the Sunday edition tomorrow, and I'm back Monday with more of 5 Things from USA Today.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Video shows Memphis police violently beating Tyre Nichols