D.C. police said they are prepared for possible protests in the District ahead of the release of video footage reportedly showing police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, beating a man during a traffic stop.
Video showing the officers beating Tyre Nichols is expected to be released at 7 p.m. Friday, according to Shelby County, Tennessee, District Attorney Steve Mulroy. Nichols died in the hospital three days after the encounter with police.
A lawyer for Nichols’ family said the video showed that the 29-year-old FedEx worker was shocked, pepper-sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over near his home. He was returning home from a suburban park where he had taken photos of the sunset.
Police had said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving and at some point fled from the scene.
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said he saw the video and found it “absolutely appalling.”
“Let me be clear: What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal,” Rausch said during the news conference.
In a statement to WTOP, D.C. police said the purported police beating captured on video doesn’t “represent the values that any law enforcement officers are sworn to uphold.”
The Metropolitan Police Department “respects the community’s First Amendment right to demonstrate and peacefully protest,” the statement said. “We will not tolerate any unlawful behavior during First Amendment demonstrations, and we will take swift law enforcement action should anyone break the law.”
D.C. police said that if people see suspicious activity, they should call 911 to report it.
Speaking to WTOP’s Luke Garrett for the DMV Download podcast on Thursday, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said he has heard the video is disturbing and that fellow officers “would be sickened by what they see because it doesn’t represent what we do or who we are.”
Regarding the possibility of protests in D.C., Contee said the department welcomes people peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.
“What we don’t want is people being destructive and tearing things up in our communities — and our community members don’t want that kind of thing, either,” Contee said. “We want to be supportive for people to express their First Amendment. I mean, we do that every single day and that’s not a problem. We just don’t want to see anything going beyond that.”
During our interview with Chief Robert Contee III @DCPoliceDept, news broke that 5 ex-Memphis police officers were charged with murder for the death of Tyre Nichols.
Here’s Chief Contee’s reaction: pic.twitter.com/Suz9mVsRXf
— DMV Download from WTOP News (@DmvDownload) January 27, 2023
The five fired Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, who are all Black — each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Montgomery County, Maryland, police Chief Marcus Jones said he’s also in support of peaceful protests as long as there’s no violence. He called the actions of the ex-officers “indefensible.”
“This latest incident is extremely disturbing, frustrating, and discouraging,” Jones said. “I send my condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the Memphis community. MCPD will continue to work in partnership with residents and community members to promote positive change in Montgomery County.”
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
The Shelby County DA in Tennessee prosecuting the case said the officers each played different roles in the killing, but “they are all responsible.”
Nichols’ mother, RowVaugh Wells, speaking during a news conference in Memphis Thursday pleaded with supporters to “protest in peace.”
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully. You can get your point across but we don’t need to tear up our cities, people, because we do have to live in them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.