The stepfather of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old man beaten to death following a traffic stop earlier this month, called for peace Friday, ahead of the release later in the day of the police bodycam and surveillance video of the violence.
Memphis and other U.S. cities reportedly were preparing for possible protests following the release of video.
Memphis police said Nichols, an African American, was stopped for alleged reckless driving on January 7. He was assaulted after the stop, and he died from his injuries three days later.
Five Memphis police officers, all of them African American, were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression in the incident. All the officers have been fired.
During a news conference Friday at a Memphis church, Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, said the family was very satisfied with the legal process so far, and he urged people, if they needed to protest, to do so peacefully.
“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance. We want peaceful protest,” he said. “The family is very satisfied with the process, with the police chief, with the D.A. [district attorney].”
Also speaking at the news conference, lawyers for the family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, applauded the district attorney for the swiftness with which the charges were brought against the officers.
Romanucci said the officers were members of a “SCORPION” unit – an acronym for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. He said such units are known as “suppression” units and contended they act with impunity and are more likely to use force than other members of a police force.
He called on the Memphis police department to disband the unit immediately.
The call for peace by Nichols’ stepfather came after President Joe Biden issued a similar call Thursday. In a statement, the president said, “Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable.”
“Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all,” Biden said.
Federal law enforcement officials said they were prepared for any unrest.
Speaking at a news conference Friday in Washington, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau had alerted all of its field offices around the country to work with state and local law enforcement “in the event of something getting out of hand.”
Wray said he had seen the video of Tyre’s beating and was “appalled” by its content.
"I'm struggling to find a stronger word, but I’d just say I was appalled,” Wray noted.
But Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland joined calls by other officials to keep any protests against police peaceful.
"I do want to say, and I want to repeat what the family has said, that expressions of concern when people see this video, we urge that they be peaceful and nonviolent,” Garland said at the press conference. “That’s what the family has urged, and that of course is what the Justice Department urges as well.”
The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the case.
VOA’s Masood Farivar contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.