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Memphis beating video shines spotlight on first police account

Newly released video shows Memphis police officers beating motorist Tyre Nichols with punches and kicks, also using pepper spray and batons.

But initially, in a statement posted on social media the day after the incident, Memphis police used ambiguous language to describe the attack, accusing officers of callousness and violence, captured in a video clip released late Friday. He did not say anything to suggest that he acted.

It is the latest example of a long line of early police accounts of the use of force, including the account provided by the Minneapolis Police Department after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, to help minimize or eliminate violent and sometimes deadly encounters. I was later shown to have ignored it.

In its first comments regarding the arrest of Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker, by members of the city police’s so-called Scorpion Squad on the night of January 7, the department vaguely stated that the officers involved were “routinely relieved.” An outside agency was brought in during the investigation.

When Nichols was dying in hospital, he was stopped for reckless driving when “a collision occurred” and fled on foot, according to the official police account. I was at home.

“Another confrontation occurred while trying to detain the suspect. However, the suspect was eventually arrested,” police said on Jan. 8. The suspect was taken to St Francis Hospital in critical condition. “

Punches, kicks, pepper spray and baton strikes are not mentioned.

Aisha Bell Hardaway, a professor at Case Western Reserve Law School, said police could increase public confidence by being more transparent and issuing initial statements about such encounters. rice field.

Bell Hardaway said of the initial police statement regarding Nichols’ arrest, “It’s misleading.” I know you’re not an official.”

Bell Hardaway said, “What was the reason they brought this up and admitted to it?

Asked about that initial statement, Major Karen Rudolph, a spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department on Saturday, said only, “All information released is preliminary.”

Charged with murder and fired from the department, Nichols and the five police officers are all black.

Seth Stoughton, a law professor and former police officer at the University of South Carolina, said it’s common for law enforcement agencies to provide few details about a case and issue “general information that is virtually useless.” Stated. .

“As long as there is detailed follow-up, I don’t think it’s really a big deal,” Stoughton said. “Government agencies must be alert to the potential for omissions to lie, or not to deceive, lie, or mislead by omissions.”

Civil rights attorney Michael Avery, founder of the National Police Accountability Project, said police and elected officials can be involved in downplaying police misconduct.

“They don’t want to acknowledge what’s going on, especially in their town or under their watch,” Avery said. “I think you have a predisposition to deny it.”

He said the use of the passive tense in the original Memphis police statement — a confrontation happened — disguised what actually happened.

“That’s not true either,” Avery said. “He complained of shortness of breath? When you watch the video, he’s lying there unconscious or semi-conscious. It’s silly to describe that as a complaint of shortness of breath.”

Nichols died on January 10th. In announcing his death the next day, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said he “succumbed to his injuries,” but did not explain the nature.

Just three days later, on January 14, it became public knowledge that Nichols went into cardiac arrest and kidney failure after being beaten by police, his stepfather told local media. Most recently, an attorney for the Nichols family said an autopsy performed by a forensic pathologist they hired found extensive internal bleeding.

The reference to breathing problems brings to mind the death of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, kneeling behind Floyd’s neck as he lay face down in the street and repeatedly yelled, “I can’t breathe.” Police there initially publicly stated that Floyd died in a “medical accident while dealing with police.”

The Minneapolis Police Department spokesperson who issued that statement did not visit the scene or review body camera footage, and issued a corrected statement after bystander videos surfaced and outside agencies were brought in. could not be announced.

Publicly released videos also contradict police accounts elsewhere, including in Buffalo, New York. A policeman said the protester hit his head when he “tripped and fell,” but video showed he was shoved by two police officers.

In Philadelphia, a college student who was severely injured in the head with a metal baton assaulted a police officer, police said. rice field.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Memphis beating video shines spotlight on first police account

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