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Memphis police release sickening bodycam video of Tyre Nichols beating

Five officers have been charged with murder and several other offenses for the brutal beating the 29-year-old Black man earlier this month.

By and

The Memphis Police Department on Friday released bodycam video of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, a Black man whose death spurred murder charges against five police officers.

The officers, all of whom are Black, severely beat Nichols, 29, during a traffic stop on Jan. 7. He died three days later. Police initially said Nichols was pulled over for reckless driving; however, authorities later said available footage could not "substantiate" that claim.

All five officers were fired last week and have been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. At least two of them are expected to plead not guilty.

Before showing the video on Friday night's episode of "The ReidOut," host Joy Reid shared her thoughts on the reason for doing so and cautioned viewers not to become desensitized to this kind of violence.

You can watch a clip of her introduction at this link.

Here are her words transcribed:

I think this is important. We’re going to show you this video because you pay for the police. The police work for the public. They work for you — if you’re in Memphis, they work for you. They’re supposed to protect and serve you. Your tax dollars pay their salaries and their union benefits. And so, they are public servants in the most basic sense of the word. And when they do something that seems to violate in every way the idea of protection and service, the public that pays them has a right to know what they’re doing. We have a right to public disclosure about what they do. But I want to really emphasize — and I think this is very important to understand -- that, to watch this is not for the purpose of prurience. Americans watch a lot of violence. We watch a lot of violent TV shows. A lot of violent films. And we watch them, and sometimes get numb to that violence. This is not violence you should become numb to. This is somebody’s child. A mom and a dad’s son. This is somebody’s dad. This is somebody’s friend and brother and cousin. And we’re gonna show you this video with a warning that it is violent, but it also is a depiction of the kind of police violence that normally happens outside your view.

I’ve been unnerved by what's felt like a dispassionate process by which officials — from Memphis all the way up to Minneapolis — seem to have handled this rollout. 

The fact that Memphis authorities spoke at length about how gruesome this bodycam footage would be; prepped their Friday night mass distribution on a popular video platform; and led a nationwide battening of the hatches by law enforcement in preparation for potential unrest speaks to the nightmarish state of policing in 2023. 

A sordid routine has emerged. This feels like "Groundhog Day."  

And, on that note, here’s something to think about. A lot of people have compared Nichols' case to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police back in 1991. And I don’t think the similarities end at the grisly nature of the video. 

After King came a raft of other incidents of filmed police abuse. Oscar Grant. Alton Sterling. Atatiana Jefferson. George Floyd. Keenan Anderson. They’re all similar in that they were violent, yes. 

But they’re also similar in that, despite their violence, they haven’t jarred the American public — particularly many white Americans — to reject a status quo in law enforcement that disproportionately subjects Black people to harm.