FPresidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump inadvertently found common ground over the weekend, separately condemning the killing of Tire Nichols after video footage showed police brutally beating him and failing to provide medical aid.
Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, died Jan. 10 as a direct result of injuries inflicted by Memphis police officers during what they said was a traffic stop for reckless driving. Video of the incident, taken on Jan. 7 and released Friday night, showed officers aggressively pulling Nichols from his car and wrestling him to the ground without making any effort to interact peacefully. He could be heard saying “I didn’t do anything”, before being pepper-sprayed and tasered as officers shouted profanities.
A traumatized Nichols then fled, prompting a police chase. After being captured a few blocks from his home, surveillance footage shows officers savagely beating the FedEx worker and aspiring photographer, who screams for his mother as he is kicked in the head.
‘SORRY AND DEEPLY SORRY’: BIDEN REACTS TO TYRE NICHOLS VIDEOS
After the savage beating ends, the officers are seen punching each other and celebrating their actions, while Nichols is seen leaning against a police car, at times even taunting the man as he struggled to keep from falling . Paramedics arrive 10 minutes after the assault ends, but Nichols does not receive medical attention for 22 minutes. Throughout this time, officers could be heard bragging about the blows they received and making claims about Nichols’ behavior that were not corroborated by the video footage.
The incident has sparked a national conversation about policing in the United States and the possible need for reform.
Trump called the attack “horrific” in a pair of interviews aboard his plane Saturday after campaigning in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“I thought it was terrible. He was in this trouble. He was just being beaten. Now this should never have happened,” Trump told the Associated Press. He told the channel that Nichols calling out to his mother was “a very sad moment. That was really the point that got me the most, to be honest with you.”
Trump echoed the same message in the Wall Street Journal, saying, “The video was pretty graphic. Unless there’s something that’s not being shown, it would certainly be a terrible thing for them to do, terrible.”
In a joint tweet with former first lady Michelle Obama, the 44th president called Nichols’ killing a “painful reminder” for America and called for police reform.
“The vicious and unjustified beating of Tire Nichols and his eventual death at the hands of five Memphis police officers is just the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go to fix how we police our streets” , Obama said in a statement posted on Twitter.
They said the onus is on all people to “mobilize for lasting change” and included a link to an Obama Foundation webpage promoting ways for communities to “reimagine public safety.”
While calling it a “strong step” to disband the SCORPION unit, the street-crime force to which the former officers were assigned, Trump told the AP: “Look, the tape may not have been entirely conclusive , but for me, it was pretty conclusive and it was vicious and violent and hard to believe, for a traffic violation.”
However, when asked if the incident should lead to the implementation of police reforms, Trump did not endorse sweeping changes.
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“At the same time you have to stop crime,” he said. “So it’s like individual people. You have to get the right people who know when to be tough and when not to be tough. This was a case of being very, very tough, too, too crazy.”
“He was asking for his mother,” he added. “This is not a matter of reform, it is a matter of having people who understand what you have to do and understand life.”
Five of the Memphis police officers involved in the attack have been charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, aggravated assault in concert and two counts of aggravated kidnapping. Nichols’ family has argued for charges against others involved in the incident, including sheriff’s officers and deputies who allegedly neglected to de-escalate the situation and paramedics who failed to provide aid to Nichols for more than 20 minutes.