Police in Memphis have released a video of the violent encounter earlier this month between Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, and the five police officers charged with his murder.
One video clip shows officers dragging Mr Nichols from the driver's seat of his car as he yells, "damn, I didn't do anything ... I am just trying to go home," and force him to the ground as they order him to lie on his stomach, then squirt him in the face with pepper spray.
Mr Nichols breaks free, scrambles to his feet and sprints off down a road with officers in pursuit, firing stun guns at him.
A separate video shows a subsequent struggle after officers catch up with Mr Nichols again, and are beating him.
Two officers are seen holding him down as a third one kicks him and a fourth delivers blows with what appears to be a rod before another punches Mr Nichols.
The footage from police body-worn and dashboard cameras was published a day after the officers were charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression.
The officers, all black, had already been dismissed from the police department last Saturday following their 7 January confrontation with Mr Nichols during a traffic stop that led to him being severely beaten.
He died in hospital three days later.
The City of Memphis posted four separate video files from the incident on its Vimeo page. The videos depict graphic violence.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis and lawyers for Mr Nichols' family who watched the footage with his relatives before it was released, warned that the images were brutal and likely to cause outrage, while appealing to the public for calm.
"You are going to see acts that defy humanity," Ms Davis told CNN in describing the footage.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the Nichols family, said the last words on the video were Mr Nichols crying out for his mother.
"No mother should go through what I am going through right now, no mother, to lose their child to the violent way that I lost my child," Mr Nichols' mother, Row Vaughn Wells, said yesterday.
Mr Nichols was a father of a four-year-old and was described as an affable, accomplished skateboarder who recently enrolled in a photography class.
Raised in Sacramento, California, Mr Nichols moved before the coronavirus pandemic to the Memphis area, where he lived with his mother and stepfather and worked at FedEx, taking a break each day to come home for a meal prepared by his mother.
As the video first appeared and was being broadcast by news outlets, a group of protesters gathered in Memphis, shouting, "no justice, no peace."
Several dozen protesters marched along Interstate 55, shutting down traffic near a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River into Arkansas.
US President Joe Biden declared himself "outraged and deeply pained" by the newly released footage.
"The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged," Mr Biden said in a statement, urging protesters to remain peaceful.
"Those who seek justice should not resort to violence or destruction," he added.
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols' family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a beloved child and young father.⁰⁰Here's my full statement. pic.twitter.com/ghROhSGtao— President Biden (@POTUS) January 28, 2023
Mr Nichols' family and President Biden have appealed for protests to stay peaceful in Memphis, a city of 628,000 where nearly 65% of residents are black.
Mr Biden spoke with Ms Vaughan Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr Nichols' stepfather, yesterday afternoon to express his condolences, the White House said, adding that it was coordinating with relevant government agencies in case protests turn violent.
Mr Nichols' death marked the latest high-profile instance of police officers accused of using excessive force in the deaths of black people and other minorities in recent years. These have been publicly condemned as systemic racism in the US criminal justice system.
Protests under the banner of the "Black Lives Matter" movement against racial injustice erupted globally following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Antonio Romanucci, another lawyer for Mr Nichols' family, told National Public Radio in an interview yesterday that Mr Nichols was a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and "basically died for his own cause."
US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a federal civil rights investigation into Mr Nichols' death, while law enforcement agencies in some major cities, including New York, Atlanta and Washington, said they were preparing for possible protests following the video's release.
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Traffic stop began chain of events
Police have described the circumstances of Mr Nichols' arrest in vague terms. Even Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who sought the officers' indictment, was circumspect when announcing the charges.
After Mr Nichols was pulled over for reckless driving, "an altercation" ensued in which officers doused him with pepper spray, and Mr Nichols tried to flee on foot, Mr Mulroy said. "There was another altercation at a nearby location at which the serious injuries were experienced by Mr Nichols."
Ms Davis said her department has not yet been able determine whether there was probable cause for the officers to pull Mr Nichols over for reckless driving, a traffic stop which set in motion the violent events that followed.
Mr Crump said the speed at which the criminal charges were brought against the officers - fewer than three weeks after Mr Nichols' death - should be a standard for police-involved killings.
All five officers - Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith - were fired from the police force on 21 January after an internal investigation found they breached multiple department policies, including use of excessive force.
Four of the officers have posted bail and have been released from jail, a CBS affiliate reported yesterday. A lawyer for Mr Mills Jr., Blake Ballin, said it might be another two weeks before the defendants make their initial court appearances.
In some other high-profile cases, such as the police killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago in 2014, more than a year elapsed before the release of police video and the filing of charges.
"We want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for any time any officers, whether they be black or white, will be held accountable," Mr Crump said. "No longer can you tell us we got to wait six months to a year."
Lawyers for the family also called on the police department to disband the special SCORPION unit focused on violent street crime to which at least some of the officers were assigned. Ms Davis has said the department will review SCORPION and other specialised units.
Mr Crump compared the encounter to the 1991 videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King by four police officers whose subsequent acquittal of criminal charges sparked days of riots in Los Angeles.