WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Ben Crump, the famed civil rights attorney who represents the family of Tyre Nichols, said the video of the police beating him and later causing his death was “deplorable.”
In an interview with DC News Now late Friday night, Crump said he was still distressed after watching the video with the Nichols family on the night the Memphis Police Department made the body cam and street camera video public in anticipation of protests across the nation.
“There’s so many adjectives that come to your mind, that is deplorable, that it’s heinous, that it is just appalling. I mean you can go through the whole alphabet,” Crump said from Memphis. “But when you come to the end, what you really get stuck on is how unnecessary (the beating) was.”
The case of Nichols, 29, has sent shockwaves through the country and has invoked comparisons to the infamous Rodney King beating by the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1990s when four officers clubbed him repeatedly with batons. That incident was caught on video.
Crump, who has represented countless families across America after deadly police shootings and encounters, said the beating was completely unprovoked by the officers.
“He never threatened these officers when you watch this video. He was always calm even though they used all kind of profanity towards him and was beating on him and kicking him and he never, ever raised his voice. He said, you know, what did I do?” Crump said.
Crump said Nichols was crying for help. There was a point in the video when Nichols cried out for his mother as the officers wailed on him.
“He said, ‘I just want to go home.’ And so it’s just tragic to see this video, especially for his friends and family, many (of) whom are back in the Bay area in California,” Crump stated.
And the comparisons to the King beating by LAPD officers?
“It was I who initially said when people see this video it’s going to remind them of the Rodney King video from 1992,” he said. “And when Police Chief Davis was asked did she agree with my assessment, she said yes.”
The difference, Crump said, was the fact that Nichols died and that “this video was far worse than the Rodney King video — and I think many people around America agree that this was far worse.”
The video made public Friday evening caused many to react to what they saw, including former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who also called the actions of the five officers “deplorable.”
“I think the whole thing troubles me. I spent 43 years in the Philadelphia Police Department. For a car stop? For the confrontation they had and the things that I’ve seen, it’s deplorable,” said Johnson, who served as police commissioner from 2002 to 2008. “I hear a lot of people say it’s training. Training plays an important part. But I think what plays more of an important part is supervision. If you create a special unit to go out there and handle crime and violent crime, you have to have constant supervision, and the training and you’ve got to monitor those things.”
Johnson said he also felt the beating was worse than the King encounter.
“I feel the same way. Philadelphia is a very busy city and we’ve had our problems. And I’ve seen a lot in Philadelphia. But I haven’t seen nothing like this when you have five men going out there,” he said. “Whether they’re Black or white and just beat up a person and it’s just no excuse for it. The whole thing comes down to it was just a traffic stop and he ran away.”
Ralph Godbee, the former police chief of Detroit, said before the video was released that the culture of aggressive police tactics in America when it comes to traffic stops of Black men must stop. And he said that race doesn’t matter because it’s more about the blue of the uniform.
“Similar to the Freddie Gray situation in Baltimore, Maryland, where the majority of the officers that were charged even though they weren’t convicted were African-American officers and the suspect was African American as well, this really tells me how nuanced the conversation needs to be about police brutality and excessive use of force,” he said.
Police reform, Godbee said, is needed now.
“This is why the conversation about criminal justice reform and police reform has to be more nuanced than just a Black and white officer issue. Because it’s a culture, it’s… police culture,” said Godbee, who served as chief from 2010 to 2012 in Detroit. “And the unit that was created to deal with some pretty heinous crimes, the way it was constructed, the manner by which the officers engaged in what we would call very high-risk type of enforcement. I think the first thing that I’ve noticed is the fact that those five officers were operating without a supervisor embedded in that particular detail.”
When asked if there are excuses for the officers’ behavior, he added, “there are reasons, but no excuses.”