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'It was tough to watch' | Former & current St. Louis area officers react to Tyre Nichols video release

"We can’t let things like that be a reflection of all of us," a retired trooper said.

ST. LOUIS — Just 24 hours ago, the Memphis Police Department released the footage in the Tyre Nichols investigation to the public. 

Editor's Note: We need to warn you, the images are disturbing and very difficult to watch. 

Since its release, the video has sparked protests across the country, including in St. Louis. 

Many local officials have weighed in on the disturbing videos. Emotions were high for many on Saturday. 

Retired Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson, said the video was "tough to watch."

"The gentleman was 29 years old, and yesterday, my son turned 30," Johnson said. "So, it really brought it home. Hearing him call out for his mom…it was hard to watch."

As a father, a Black man and a former Missouri state trooper, Johnson said, his emotions were high after watching the video of five Memphis police officers fatally beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

"I think for many in the U.S., especially of color, it’s the same old, same old," Johnson said. "I think it has not changed...It’s kind of making them feel more ingrained about what they’re feeling about law enforcement. For others in America, I think it made them take a second look that maybe it is time to do something different. I think for law enforcement — I think for many of us who have done a great job and continue to do a great job — it’s saying it’s a time where we need to change, and we can’t let things like that be a reflection of all of us."

Johnson spent part of his over 30-year career as a commander over the riots surrounding Michael Brown in Ferguson. 

He said one of the hardest parts is knowing Nichols won't be the last.

"My emotions are high, just for this country, for our region on how we move forward, and we have to, but a part of me says, that people are asking, 'Do you think this will happen again?' My answer is, 'yes', so that is tough, that my answer has to be yes to that question," Johnson said.

Johnson also said, he believes more leadership training needs to be done for all police officers, not just officers at the command staff level.

"When I look at that traffic stop, you know, you address them with calm and respect. If your calm in your approach, usually that calms down the person you’re encountering," he said.

Pagedale Police Department Chief Anthony Huckleberry described the video as overwhelming and the officers' actions as totally unacceptable.

"I really believe that that type of behavior sets African American policemen back…," Huckleberry said.

Huckleberry said departments everywhere have taken major steps to improve perception of policing. 

He said what took place on Jan. 7 in Memphis was a major hit to what's been accomplished.

"I think that seeing that incident on TV and everybody else in the world seeing that incident — it looks like we aren't moving anywhere," Huckleberry said. "It makes it look like that were not making the moves."

Huckleberry said he agrees with the Memphis police officers being charged, but Johnson said it's now up to the courts and judicial system to decide what happens to the officers. 

Both Huckleberry and Johnson agreed this is a teachable moment for everyone. 

"I would just say to the people of St. Louis and the people in this country, we have great men and women who serve us each and every day, but I know together, with our community leaders, with our citizens, if we can create a partnership and have the proper discussion we can move forward in a better way," Johnson said. 

Mayor Tishaura Jones released a statement in the wake of the video being released. She said she feels especially heartbroken as the mother of a Black son saying, "families across our region and our country have seen yet another traumatizing video showing the tragic, heinously violent final moments of a Black man's life."

She goes on to say, "community trust is necessary to make our neighborhoods safer."

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