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Davis Talks about Nichols' Beating; Tyre Nichols' Stepfather Speaks About the Video; Tyre Nichols' Mother Speaks about His Death. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 27, 2023 - 09:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Friday morning to you. A solemn day of news today. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Today the nation will see exactly what happened to 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a violent encounter with police in Memphis, Tennessee. The injuries he sustained during that traffic stop ultimately leading to his death. And some of those videos, including those from police body cameras, have been described as appalling, horrific and inhumane.

SCIUTTO: Right now five Memphis police officers have been fired, charged with several felonies, including second-degree murder. This morning, a remarkable one on CNN. CNN's Don Lemon spoke exclusively with Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis revealing extensive new details about what you're going to see in the videos that will be released later today. The two meticulously walking through what led up to the traffic stop and remaining questions about that, the beating and the arrest of Tyre Nichols.

Also, the ongoing investigations into the officers responsible.


CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: What was said was that there was a witnessing of what was considered reckless driving. We've looked at cameras. We've looked at body-worn cameras. And even if something occurred prior to this stop, we've been unable to substantiate that at this time.

It doesn't mean that something -- something didn't happen -

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: That the cameras -

DAVIS: But there's no proof.

LEMON: There's no proof that the cameras didn't pick up.

DAVIS: That the cameras didn't pick up. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: The chief laying out just what happened over the course of these two incidents, emphasizing the physical interaction between Mr. Nichols and the officers started when those officers attempted to remove him from the car.


CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: Well, from the very beginning, to me they were riled up, you know? I don't think they were as amped up as they were on the second -- at the second scene. But just the stop, the nature of the stop, very aggressive, loud, you know, communication. And it was -- it just rose from there. It escalated from there.

Mr. Nichols was able to get away from these officers and they found him again at another location. And at that point there was -- there was an amount of aggression that is unexplainable, you know. In any instance where you're apprehending someone, even in the worst situations when there is resistance, officers still have the responsibility to exercise care and regard for any individual that's in custody or they're attempting to apprehend. And they're trained to do that.

LEMON: You have to deescalate.

DAVIS: And to deescalate. And that's a piece, I think, that is in question. But I think the escalation was there from the officers before training even needed to come in as it relates to deescalate. The escalation was already at a high level.

The video is broken into four different sort of fragmented pieces, but they're all very relative to this -- to this incident. The initial stop, the stop near Tyre's home, and also body-worn camera of individuals that were at that scene.


SCIUTTO: So much in this video that was really heart-stopping to hear, this interview. She said you're going to see acts that defy humanity in this video when it's released. Chief Davis said the report she reviewed shortly after the incident was also, quote, a strange summary of what happened. She says that is what prompted her to review the incident as soon as she could. The chief described what she saw during that review, saying it was as bad, if not worse, than the 1992 beating of Rodney King. Likening her officers' actions, keep in mind, officer who serve under her to, quote, group think mentality.



CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: They acted just like any other normal officer, you know, respectful when they see you. But what I saw in this video was more of a group think sort of mentality. You know, a group think. And - and no one took a step to intercept or, you know, intervene. And that's why the charges are as severe as they are.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It has been said that it is reminiscent, perhaps worse, than the Rodney King video. Is that your assessment?

DAVIS: That's my assessment.

LEMON: Really?

DAVIS: I was in law enforcement during the Rodney King incident. And it's - it's, you know, very much aligned with that same type of behavior.

LEMON: That it's worse?

DAVIS: And sort of group think. I would - I would say it's about the same, if not worse.

LEMON: If not worse.

DAVIS: If not worse.


HILL: About the same, if not worse.


HILL: What so many of us will see later today when that video is released.

Well, it's all of that, Chief Davis said, that led her to act immediately in response to -- and these are her words here -- this disregard for life.


HILL: And as you just heard there, too, a response well beyond what was required in those moments.


CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: I was -- I was outraged. I was -- it was incomprehensible to me. It was unconscionable and I - I felt that I needed to do something and do something quickly. I don't think I've witnessed anything of that nature in my entire career.


DAVIS: Really.

LEMON: That bad?

DAVIS: It was that bad.

LEMON: What are we going to see, then? DAVIS: You're going to see acts that defy humanity. You're going to

see a disregard for life, duty of care that we're all sworn to and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement. And - and I'm sure that, you know, as I said before, that individuals watching will feel what the family felt. And if you don't, then you're not a human being. And we all are human beings. And I think there will be a measure of sadness as well.


HILL: And CNN "THIS MORNING" anchor Don Lemon, as well as CNN's senior national correspondent Sara Sidner both joining us now from Memphis with more.

Don, I just have to say, this was such a powerful morning, not only your interview with the chief, your interview with Tyre Nichols' family and also a defense attorney. And we're going to bring more of that throughout the morning.


HILL: So I just want to make sure people stay with us for that.

This interview, Don, with the chief, there was so much that came out of that in terms of details. The chief knowing right away that something was wrong here, that things were not handled properly, that there was no way to even see that there could be reckless driving. Were you surprised by how forthcoming she was in this interview, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Stunned. Stunned, Erica.

Good morning to you and Jim.

Yes, stunned by the level of candor that she displayed in that interview. And when she said, listen, there is -- there's nothing on the videotape, there's no evidence of any reason why they would stop Tyre Nichols for reckless driving. They have been looking for it and they can't find it.

Even before reviewing the videotape, she said, when she got the call and she heard that he was in the hospital, she said, something is wrong. This isn't -- this doesn't sound right for a reckless driving stop to end up with someone being in the hospital. So, she said she knew immediately that something was wrong.

And then the next day, when she was able to review the videotapes, obviously she said it was jaw dropping and immediately she knew that there had to be some disciplinary action taken, which led to the firing of all five of these officers. She's saying that this has nothing to do - there -- this is not policing. This is beyond bad policing. This is beyond lack of training or bad training. This was just an inhumane act.

And to have the police chief of a major city in the United States talk about what happened with Rodney King in 1992 and saying it's as bad if not worse I think is remarkable. It is stunning. You know, and to -- look, she said there were safety issues as far as releasing - everyone's been asking about releasing a videotape and why it's being released on a Friday night and so late.


She said, they were looking out not only for the safety of the officers, but for the safety of the community. They wanted the kids to be home safe, out of school. They wanted people to be home safely from work. They wanted people to be as much as possible off the streets and off of the roads and what have you. So that is why the videotape is released.

So, it's -- look, I can't imagine what we're going to see, but we certainly heard a little bit of it from the family and we heard from the police chief as well.


SCIUTTO: Yes, Sara, that raises questions about the legal implications of those comments. You have the police chief saying, I expected serious charges, quote/unquote. She says, you're going to see acts that defy humanity in this video, quote/unquote. And she also notably says that they've not been able to substantiate reckless driving, which would have then justified, or at least been an explanation for the police stop.

You spoke to the DA this morning. I wonder what - what the --

LEMON: Hey, Jim, can I say something about reckless driving?


LEMON: Yes, that reckless driving charge, we've heard that a lot on these stops.

SIDNER: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: That they -- when we do these stories. That reckless driving can be a catch all for anything.

SCIUTTO: Yes. For sure.

LEMON: What is reckless driving?


LEMON: A blinker is out.


LEMON: A flasher is out. A head lamp is out.


LEMON: You cross the line.


LEMON: Maybe you're looking at a cellphone. You know, anything, you get distracted or something.

So, I'm sorry, just, you know, the whole reckless driving, what - what would substantiate that.

But I'm sorry to interrupt. Go on.

SCIUTTO: No question. I mean, listen, you -- we had a police pull over justified by having a deodorant on the rearview mirror. You remember that case as well.

LEMON: Right.

SCIUTTO: But, Sara, I wonder how the D.A. is describing, first of all, next steps, but also how they're processing those public comments and they factor in to those next steps.

SIDNER: Yes, this morning I spoke at length with the Shelby County D.A. And we will have some of that for you later in the day.

He said a couple of things. One, the first thing I asked him was, in plain speak, not in the language of the justice system, but in plain speak, did these officers beat Tyre Nichols to death? And he said yes.


SIDNER: Now, he would not go further as to what exactly happened because they have to be very careful. The D.A. is not the police chief, is not the defense attorneys, is not the public, is not the family. The D.A. has to be very, very careful about how he talks about this video and was very careful not to say everything that was on the video. But he agreed that this is how Tyre Nichols died at the hands of officers. He was beaten to death.

That is a hard thing to hear for any of us.


SIDNER: But for the family, and the unbelievable pain that they have to be feeling, and we saw that in your interview that was excellent, that is going to stick with them for the rest of their lives. And this video may stick with all of us for the rest of our lives.

Secondly, I asked him if there was any evidence that he saw of reckless driving. In other words, do they have any of that video? And he said, you will not be seeing any of that. We are still investigating. But what is being released will not show the lead up to this.

And lastly I said, did the officers lie on the police report or lie to the police department, because we now know from your interview that they told the family that it was a DUI -

SCIUTTO: Yes. SIDNER: And they told the police department in their report that it was reckless driving. Which one is it? It sounds like there is untruth, there is lies that may have been coming from these officers.


SIDNER: And as the family said, as the mother said, this looks like a cover up. That's how she saw it.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You know, Erica, echoes of the first police report in the George Floyd case, right? Certainly, did not have the details that we later saw in the video.

HILL: Yes.

SIDNER: Right.

HILL: It's true. You know, and in the -- when we think about the family, Don, your interview with Tyre Nichols' mother, his stepfather, their attorney this morning was to powerful. I was - I was struck by the strength of Mrs. Wells. Struck by her grace, frankly.

She has not watched that full video.


HILL: Her husband did. He told you, Don, he didn't - he didn't want her to see it all.

But the fact that we know, and we haven't seen it yet, but the fact that he confirmed that it ends with Tyre Nichols calling out for his mother, just feet, frankly, from the home -


HILL: What was your take away from that? Again, it was so powerful. Just I - I am in awe and -- of the strength of this family to come out and talk about it. And yet it's so necessary and it is so sad that we are here yet again, Don, where a family has to talk about this moment that they should never ever be in.

LEMON: Yes. Listen -- listen, there -- there's a lot here. Let me just say -- and it's not, you know, you, Erica. I didn't want to say in the interview "stepfather," because I grew up with a stepfather.



LEMON: And my stepfather didn't think he was my stepfather. He was like, I'm his dad.

SIDNER: Yes. Yes.

HILL: Yes.

LEMON: And he - you know, Mr. Wells referred to Tyre as his son.


LEMON: So I wish - look, I know technically it's correct, but I wish as a network we stopped calling him a stepfather because he wasn't a step away, he was the guy's dad, he's the guy's father.

The other thing is that I -- when I sat there I forgot that I was in an interview. I was just talking to a mom and a dad, right, in the interview. And I don't know if you -- I could not -- I didn't have return, which is, in TV language, I couldn't see what was on the air because I was talking to them. I just didn't -- I wasn't able to see. But I don't know if you guys saw, when he was describing what was in the videotape, she looked away. She couldn't even look at him. She was flinching because she didn't want to hear what happened to her son.

So, he described what happened. I think the most important part is when he talked to -- talked about seeing the lack of care from the fire department and from the officers. And they're walking around smoking. And that they propped his son up and then used expletives when he slumped over.

So, here is some of this.


RODNEY WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' FATHER: He said, what did I do? Why are y'all doing this to me? What did I do?

And they proceeded to snatch him out of the car and was trying to wrestle him to the ground. And he got scared. So, he was athletic enough to get out of their situation and run. And he was trying to run home because we were -- he was three blocks from the house when they stopped him.

So, after the initial encounter, we didn't see everything because actually when the body cam started they were already engaged. And then there was the second body cam with the sky cam that videoed the encounter. And when I saw the police officer -- you know they have this little like stick, this metal thing that they pull out.

LEMON: Yes, pull out, like an antenna-style, right?

RODNEY WELLS: Uh-huh, like an antenna. Exactly.

LEMON: Retractable.

RODNEY WELLS: Yes.. And I saw them pull that out and started beating my son with it. I saw officers hitting on him. I saw officers kicking him. One officer kicked him like he was kicking a football a couple of times. And -- but the most -- the most telling thing about the video to me was the fact that it was maybe ten officers on the scene and nobody tried to stop it or even after they beat him and -and they propped him up against a car, no one rendered aid to him whatsoever. They walked around, smoking cigarettes like it was all calm and like, you know, bragging about what happened and - LEMON: An hour of video?


LEMON: And you saw him just sitting there?

RODNEY WELLS: He was sitting there and then he slumped over. And an officer walked over to him and said, sit back up. Mother - MF, you know.

And while he's handcuffed. So he had to -- they propped him back up and he slumped over again and they propped him back up again, but no one was rendering aid. I saw some fire department people come out there and they just walked around. Nobody showed him any aid. And they're supposed to be trained in first aid.

By the time the paramedic truck pulled up, this is when we couldn't see anything because the paramedic truck blocked the camera. So, I was told that the lady who was driving the paramedic truck never got out.


LEMON: That - that was hard. That was hard, Erica and Jim, to sit there and listen to, you know, someone who's -- you remember Freddie Gray, Sara?


LEMON: When they talked about not rendering care and, you know, what happened in the Freddie Gray case.

SIDNER: Right. In Baltimore.

LEMON: In Baltimore. And it's just - and they were just -- I would imagine that's the charges, the reason for the charges for the fire department, but that was very tough.

Another very tough part, when she said she went to the hospital and saw her son, immediately she knew, she said, my son will never be the same if he lives. He's going to be a vegetable. That his face was swollen up, his nose was like an "s." And I - you know, I mentioned, I said, it reminded me of Emmett Till. And the dad said, yes, that's what it was like. That's why he took the picture there.


LEMON: So, we've seen that picture and we're going to see the video.


LEMON: And it's just a tough time for the family. And it's going to be tough for the community.


And I hope -- look, I don't think there's going to be violence. I hope there's not violence here. But from everything that I've heard, it's going to -- this is going to be tough to see.


SIDNER: I've talked with the community and they have said they don't even want to watch the -- some of them don't want to watch the video.


SIDNER: A lot of us don't want to watch the video.

HILL: Yes.

SIDNER: But they will. And we're hoping that it doesn't further injure the people that have to deal with this. The family has asked for calm. They, so far, have gotten it.

LEMON: They pray (ph) for handling this with care.


LEMON: And, Erica, listen, I didn't mean to chastise you. As a -- as someone who grew up with a stepdad, I know how he hated being called a stepdad because he would say, you're my son, you're not my stepson, you're my son. So, I just - you know, they're human beings and I just (INAUDIBLE).

HILL: Look, I - you -- there was no chastising and, you're right, you know, one of my two mother-in-law's would say the same thing about her stepson, my husband, he is her son. And so you're absolutely right, Don, this is Tyre Nichols' dad.


HILL: Don and Sara, stay with us, there is much more that we want to share from those interviews this morning, so we will have much more on that just ahead. Stay with us here. Don's exclusive interview with Tyre's parents, her reaction to the charges of second-degree murder and why she believes, as Don started to touch on, those officers were already trying to cover up, in her view, what they had done when they first arrived at her door.



HILL: This morning, as this country braces for the video set to be released later today of the violent encounter between 29-year-old Tyre Nichols and five Memphis police officers, a video that's been described as horrific, heinous and inhumane by the police chief. Nichols died three days after the injuries sustained during that arrest.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Don Lemon spoke to Tyre's parents in their first interview since charges were announced against five police officers involved. They described seeing Tyre for the first time in the hospital. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You wanted first-degree murder charges.


LEMON: You didn't get that.

ROWVAUGHN WELLS: No. The charges that were filed against those officers are good charges. Those are the charges that I feel will stick. And so I'm happy with the charges that the district attorney has set forth.

LEMON: Mom, when did you first learn about this? How did you hear?

ROWVAUGHN WELLS: The Memphis Police Department banged on our door approximately around -- between 8:30 and 9:00, asking if I knew Tyre Nichols. And we said, yes. What's going on? He's been arrested. Arrested for what? DUI. DUI? My son don't drink like that. What do you mean DUI?

Well, we had to pepper spray him and tase him, so he's being attended to by the paramedics and we'll send him to the hospital and then after that he'll go to booking. What?

They then asked me, was he on any type of drugs or anything of that nature because he was -- they were saying that it was so difficult to put the handcuffs on him and he had this amount of energy, super-human energy. And what they were describing was not my son, so I was very confused.

I asked if I can go to the hospital. They told me no. They left. My husband and I, we got in our car and we went to go see if we could find Ty because he wasn't answering his phone or anything. When I asked them where my son was, they said nearby. Nearby? What is nearby? I got nothing from them.

I think now that I'm actually putting things together, I believe they were trying to cover it up when they first came to my door. Uh-huh.

When my husband and I got to the hospital, and I saw my son, he was already gone. They had beat him to a pulp. He had bruises all over him. His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck was busting because of the swelling. They broke his neck. My son's nose looked like an "s." They actually just beat the crap out of him.

And so, when I saw that, I knew my son was gone then. Even if he did live, he would have been a vegetable.

That was my baby. He was a mama's boy. That boy loved me to death. He has my name tattooed on his arm.

People don't know what those five police officers did to our family. And they really don't know what they did to their own families. They have put their own families in harm's way. They have brought shame to their own families. They've brought shame to the black community. I just feel sorry for -- I feel sorry for them. I really do. I really feel sorry for them.


LEMON: Why do you say that?

ROWVAUGHN WELLS: Because they didn't have to do this. And, like I said.