A man who died after police allegedly beat him for three minutes was a “human piñata” for officers, a family lawyer says.
Tyr Nichols, 29, died in hospital three days after a confrontation during a traffic stop in the US city of Memphis, Tennessee, on January 7.
A father of one was arrested after being pulled over for reckless driving, police said.
The five black officers involved in the arrest were fired after a police investigation found they used excessive force or failed to intervene and help him.
Relatives accused the police of assaulting Nichols and causing a heart attack. But authorities only said he had a medical emergency.
A lawyer for Mr Nicholls’ family, Antonio Romanucci, said the beating lasted three minutes and that “he was a human piñata for those officers”.
Another attorney, Ben Crump, said the body camera footage of the incident reminded family and lawyers of the 1991 video of Rodney King being beaten by police in Los Angeles, where a jury acquitted the officers a year later, leading to riots in the city. . .
He said footage of the last encounter showed he was “violent” and “problematic on every level”, adding that he was “terrible”, “regrettable” and “disgusting”.
Crump said the video will be released to the public, but not for a week or two.
Investigators don’t want to reveal it yet because they don’t want to risk compromising the investigation, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.
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Fear of disorder
There is concern among city and local leaders that the footage could spark civil unrest if released.
Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, said the family hopes any protests will remain peaceful.
Van Turner, president of the Memphis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a civil rights organization, also said the city seemed tense as it awaited the footage.
He praised the city and police department for taking “swift action” in firing the officers, identified as Thadarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.
“The cause of death has not been determined”
The day after the arrest of Mr. Nichols, the police department said that when officers approached his vehicle, “a standoff ensued” and he fled.
It states that the police then caught up with him and that “another confrontation took place” while they were detaining him.
He complained of shortness of breath and was admitted to the hospital, police said.
The cause of death has not been determined, officials said.