Former US President Donald Trump has blasted the brutal killing of a Black man at the hands of five Memphis, Tennessee police officers as “horrible,” following mass protests against police brutality in the country.
Trump who aggressively confronted the demonstrations and protests that arose in many cities across the United States following the death of George Floyd in May, 2020, said that the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by police officers “never should have happened.”
“I thought it was terrible,” Trump told The Associated Press on Saturday. “He was in such trouble. He was just being pummeled. Now that should never have happened.”
Nichols, 29, was beaten by police officers during a traffic stop in January and died three days later. Five Memphis police officers have now been arrested on second-degree murder and other charges.
The protests broke out late Friday shortly after the release of police bodycam footage showing the Memphis officers violently kicking, punching, tasing, and pepper-spraying Nichols during a traffic stop on January 7.
Nichols’s death marks the high-profile instance of police officers’ use of excessive force, as well as the latest face of a US racial justice movement galvanized by the killing of Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
After the death of Floyd in May, 2020, Trump called the killing a “grave tragedy,” but, according to a book, he wanted the military to ruthlessly deal with the protesters and “crack their skulls.”
Trump would highlight videos that showed US police officers getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior, the new book reveals, according to “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.”
“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Michael C. Bender, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, “Crack their skulls!”
The United States was swept by civil unrest after Floyd, a 46-year-old African American was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020.
Bystander video of the murder — in which Derek Chauvin is shown kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes as he gasps for air– went viral, triggering international condemnation.
On the night of May 31, protests turned violent in Washington and rioters set parts of the US capital ablaze. The next morning, according to Trump’s defense secretary, Mark Esper, Trump was on the verge of ordering 10,000 active-duty troops into the streets of DC.