Protests were carried out in cities across the US on Friday evening, after footage showing police officers beat a black man – who later died in hospital – was released.
The bodycam footage shows Tyre Nichols screaming for his mother as officers held down and savagely beat the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes.
Mr Nichols died three days after the incident on January 7, which occurred during a traffic stop.
The officers, all of whom are black, were charged on Thursday with murder and other crimes in Mr Nichols’ killing.
The victim’s family and their lawyers said the footage shows officers savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes in an assault that the legal team likened to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles driver Rodney King.
Cities across the country saw large demonstrations, with Mr Nichols’ relatives urging supporters to protest peacefully.
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both condemned the actions of the officers.
The president said in a statement that he was “outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video” of the beating and said people who see it will be “justifiably outraged.”
But he also urged protesters to avoid any violence.
Ms Harris issued a statement that said: “Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.”
She said the video images will “open wounds that will never fully heal”.
The lawyer for Mr Nichols family, Antonio Romanucci, said the officers involved “acted together… to inflict harm, terrorism, oppression of liberty, oppression of constitutional rights, which led to murder”.
“This young man, by definition of the law in this state, was terrorised. Not by one, not by two, but by five officers who we now know… acted in concert with each other,” he said.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis described the officers’ actions as “heinous, reckless and inhumane”, and said that her department has been unable to substantiate the reckless driving allegation that prompted the stop.
She told The Associated Press in an interview that there is no video of the traffic stop that shows Mr Nichols driving recklessly.
During the initial stop, the video shows the officers were “already ramped up, at about a 10”, she said. The officers were “aggressive, loud, using profane language and probably scared Mr Nichols from the very beginning”.
“We know something happened prior to this officer or these officers getting out of their vehicles… Just knowing the nature of officers, it takes something to get them amped up, you know, like that. We don’t know what happened,” she said.
“All we know is the amount of force that was applied in this situation was over the top,” Ms Davis said.
Given the likelihood of protests, Ms Davis told ABC that she and other local officials decided it would be best to release the video later in the day, after schools are dismissed and people are home from work.
Mr Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace.
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said on Thursday. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
Court records showed that all five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody.
The officers each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Four of the five officers had posted bond and been released from custody by Friday morning, according to court and jail records.
Mr Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, and Mr Mills’ lawyer, Blake Ballin, said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Mr Smith, Mr Bean and Mr Haley could not be reached.
“No-one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” Mr Massey said.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
Rallies and demonstrations were planned for Friday night in Memphis, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Portland, Oregon and Washington.
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