With officers on standby for possible protests in response to the release of graphic video depicting the fatal beating of a 29-year-old Black man by five Memphis, Tennessee, police officers, Southland law enforcement officials Friday universally condemned the chilling images.
“The grotesque actions I watched in the video were incredibly disturbing, cruel and inhumane,” Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said in a statement. “To witness former Memphis police officers engaged in such unjustified and excessive force at the expense of Tyre Nichols’ life angers me as a police officer, as an American.
“This behavior goes against every principle of the law enforcement profession and is in direct contradiction to the dedication and sacrifice of the vast majority of our members who strive to protect and serve. The violation of trust tarnishes our badge and has a caustic effect on the public’s trust.”
Long Beach police Chief Wally Hebeish called the video “disturbing and appalling.”
“As a profession, we are required to de-escalate situations, intervene when necessary and strive to find peaceful resolutions to incidents,” Hebeish said. “The actions depicted in the video of the former Memphis police officers are intolerable.”
The disturbing video depicts a Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis that led to the death in a hospital three days later of Tyre Nichols. Five Black police officers allegedly involved in the confrontation and beating of Nichols were fired last week, and all were charged this week with second-degree murder and other offenses.
The video shows the officers repeatedly beating the man, even as he is on the ground. Toward the end, Nichols is heard screaming for his mother.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Nichols’ family and also represented George Floyd’s family, has hailed Memphis officials for acting swiftly to fire the officers involved and charge them with murder. But he compared the video of Nichols’ beating to that of King.
“Regrettably, it reminded us of (the) Rodney King video,” Crump said. “Regrettably, unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t survive.”
The 1991 LAPD beating of Rodney King led to an overhauling of LAPD management and ultimately sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots that left more than 60 people dead and caused more than $1 billion in damage.
Law enforcement agencies across the Southland were on standby throughout the day Friday awaiting the release of the video by Memphis officials, prepared to respond to any protests that might result.
Moore said in his statement the LAPD was prepared to facilitate peaceful protests, and he asked residents to “remain peaceful and unified in their expression of outrage.”
A group of community activists gathered in Leimert Park on Friday morning ahead of the video’s release, calling for peaceful protests, and urging residents to gather to watch the video “collectively as one.”
Activist Najee Ali noted that after the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Los Angeles “exploded with different protests … all over L.A. County.”
Rodney King’s daughter, Lora Dene King, joined the group Friday afternoon to watch the video when it was released. Earlier in the day, she issued a statement decrying the police assault of Nichols as “extremely sickening.”
“We should not have to witness such things in this world over and over with a different name behind the hashtags,” she said.
“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 (Nichols) loved skateboarding like my father. I hope his family find strength the most; in the days to come.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League — the union representing LAPD officers — issued a joint statement Friday night with the San Francisco Police Officers Association, San Jose Police Officers’ Association, and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers blasting the actions of officers in the video.
“The killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of the five cowardly former Memphis police officers is repugnant and the complete antithesis of how honorable law enforcement professionals conduct themselves every day,” the statement read. “These accused individuals were fired, charged with murder and other crimes, arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and jailed, just like any other suspected criminal. Their brutalization of Mr. Nichols was horrific and for his family to have to view the video of Tyre suffering through those evil acts is unfathomable. We pray that they find the strength to deal with this unmitigated loss.”
The Long Beach Police Department issued a statement earlier Friday saying the agency was on a Stage 2 Tactical Alert in preparation for possible protests.
“This means we will have additional officers on patrol ready to respond to calls for service or any other incidents that may develop,” according to LBPD. “We currently have no information of planned protest activity in our city.”
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, in a statement on social media, said his agency was on standby.
“We understand there may be strong reactions to the incident described by the Memphis police chief as `reckless and inhumane,”’ Barnes said. “At this time, we do not have information that any significant events will occur locally related to the release of this video. Our department will protect the First Amendment rights of those who peacefully demonstrate. We are also appropriately prepared and ready to respond if anyone attempts to act criminally.”