(NewsNation) — The family of Tyre Nichols called for peaceful protests Friday ahead of the release of bodycam video of his arrest.
“We want peaceful protests, that is what the family wants,” Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, said on Friday. “We need to do this peacefully.”
Leaders from local Memphis police to President Joe Biden are pleading for peace ahead of the Friday evening release of what is expected to be divisive footage of Nichols’ arrest.
The bodycam video of Nichols’ arrest is expected to be released after 6 p.m. local time. Memphis Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch called the video “appalling.”
“Let me be clear,” Rausch told reporters, “What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal.”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis called the video, “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”
“I was appalled,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said Friday morning when asked to describe the video. “I’m struggling to find a stronger word, but I’ll tell you, I was appalled.”
Wray said all FBI field offices have been alerted to work with state and local partners if protests turn violent.
The state of alert goes beyond Memphis. Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., has activated all sworn personnel in the event of riots. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a state of emergency, allowing his office to deploy National Guard troops if things get out of hand.
Biden released a statement calling for a thorough investigation, while also calling for peace.
“Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable,” the statement said. “Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”
A federal civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death was opened last week. Attorney General Merrick Garland Friday morning said he had not seen the video, but he was briefed on it.
“It is deeply disturbing, I’d say horrific, from the descriptions I’ve been given,” Garland said.
The five fired police officers are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. They are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
As of Friday morning, all but Haley had posted bail.
Also Friday, the Nichols family called for the disbanding of the specialized police unit known as the Scorpion Squad.
“The police chief should disband the Scorpion unit immediately,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Nichols’ family, said, “Other citizens have come to my office and said their constitutional right was violated by the Scorpion unit.”
Nichols was beaten during a traffic stop on Jan. 7 and died in police custody three days later. All five officers involved in his arrest are facing murder charges. The officers were assigned to a team called Scorpion Squad.
The Scorpion Squad is a specialized unit started in 2021 to fight crime by targeting problem areas in the city and flooding them with officers. They often work undercover in unmarked cars.
Attorneys representing the Nichols family are calling into question the operations of this unit, wondering why those officers are even conducting traffic stops.
“The intent of the Scorpion unit has now been corrupted,” said Antonio Romanucci, an attorney representing the Nichols family.
The Memphis Police Department is now conducting an internal review of the Scorpion Squad and other specialized units.
“You also disgraced your own family when you did this,” Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said. “I am going to pray for you and your families.”
Lawyers representing two of the ex-officers said their clients are innocent until proven guilty, and added this case could be a catalyst for change.