A Memphis judge on Wednesday halted the release of more than 20 hours of additional video and audio footage related to the killing of Tyre Nichols, an unarmed Black man who was beaten by police officers during a traffic stop in January.
Judge James Jones of the Criminal Court of Tennessee issued the ruling, saying he would delay the release, expected on Wednesday afternoon, until prosecutors and attorneys for five former officers charged in the case can review the material.
The judge’s decision came in response to a motion filed by an attorney for one of the officers seeking the delay. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, said in a statement that it supported making the rest of the footage public but not at the risk of jeopardizing the prosecutor’s case or the ongoing investigation.
“We will work to review the material promptly in the hopes that the majority of it will be released sooner rather than later,” the office said.
The city of Memphis planned to release the additional footage on Wednesday on its Vimeo page along with records of the completed administrative investigations into the killing of Nichols, Jennifer Sink, the city’s chief legal officer, told a city council committee on Tuesday. The new material included 20 hours of video, Sink said, but she did not describe what it shows. Four shorter videos previously released by the city did not reveal what led to the Jan. 7 traffic stop or shed light on what paramedics responded to the incident were told by officers at the scene.
The brutal treatment seen on the footage already made public gave fresh momentum to the U.S. racial justice movement, which had been galvanized by the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday that it will review the policies and practices of the Memphis Police Department, as well as specialized units such as the now-disbanded SCORPION unit that included the five officers charged with murdering Nichols. It said it would look at similar units around the country.
Nichols, a father of a 4-year-old, was described by friends as an affable skateboarder and student of photography. The death of Nichols, 29, led the city council to approve a series of police reforms on Tuesday, including the creation of an annual review of training techniques. Police in the city of 620,000 will also be required to collect more data, and to use only marked vehicles for routine traffic stops.
The planned release of the footage on Wednesday came five weeks after the city made public graphic videos from police body-worn and dashboard cameras. One video showed officers dragging Nichols from the driver’s seat of his car before he runs away. Another showed officers pummelling him after they catch him, even though he appeared to pose no threat.
Nichols died of his injuries three days later while hospitalized. Five officers, all Black, have been charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A total of 13 officers have come under investigation for their conduct. Seven officers were fired, three were suspended, two had charges dismissed, and one resigned in lieu of termination. Three members of Memphis Fire Department were also fired and one was suspended, Sink said on Tuesday.