Tire Nichols, whose violent arrest and subsequent death sparked widespread grief and outrage, will be laid to rest Wednesday in Memphis. Nichols died on January 10, three days after his death beaten by the police at a stop. Five employees were fired and charged with second degree murder.
Vice President Kamala Harris attended the service at the Mississippi Avenue Christian Church and was called to make brief remarks.
“We’re here on behalf of the people of our country and President Joe Biden, and we’re here to celebrate the life of Tear Nichols,” Harris said. Addressing Nicholls’ mother and stepfather from the pulpit, she said: “Mrs Wells, Mr Wells, you were extraordinary in your strength, your courage and your grace. And we mourn with you.”
Harris continued, “This is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence, at the hands and feet of people who were charged with keeping them safe… This act of violence was not prosecuted by public safety. It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe, because one has to ask, wasn’t it in the interest of keeping the public safe for Tyre Nichols to be with us here today? Didn’t he have a right to be safe too?”
The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump delivered what the funeral program described as “A Call for Justice.”
“Why couldn’t they see humanity in Tyre?” Crump said of the officials involved. “… We have a God-given right to say that I am a human being and I deserve justice! Not just any justice, but equal justice.”
Also attending the service, Sharpton said, were family members of George Floyd, Bottom Jean, Breona Taylor and Eric Garner, whose deaths in police encounters have made headlines in recent years.
“I want the family to know that they have come to be with you on this day from all over the country,” Sharpton said.
“People all over the world watched the video of an unarmed, unprovoked man being beaten to death by law enforcement officers,” Sharpton said at a news conference Tuesday.
Nichols, who was 29, worked for FedEx and had a 4-year-old son. He grew up in Sacramento but moved to Memphis just before the pandemic to join his mother and stepfather.
“My son loved me to death and I love him to death,” his mother, RowVaughn Wells, said CBS News, sharing that her son has her name tattooed on his arm. A self-described “aspiring photographer,” his family said he loved to photograph landscapes and sunsets.
Friends from his youth in California shared memories of him with CBS Sacramento. Nicholls was a keen skateboarder and his friend Jerome Neal described him as “well-loved” at the local skate park.
“He just touches everyone around him,” another friend, Austin Robert, told the station. “He’s a fantastic guy and I really want everyone to remember him.”
“It’s honestly pretty devastating to see such a good person go through such unnecessary brutality, such an unnecessary death,” Brian Zhang, a friend of Nichols’ from Memphis, told CBS News.
Nichols was on his way home when he was pulled over on the night of Jan. 7 — allegedly for reckless driving, though the police chief later said no evidence was found to support that. Disturbing body cam footage and surveillance camera video released by the city on Friday, shows he was punched, kicked and sprayed with pepper spray.
He died Jan. 10 of what his stepfather Rodney Wells said was cardiac arrest and kidney failure. An official cause of death has not been released, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said he “died from his injuries.”
Five police officers from Memphis were fired and are facing charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Two other officers were dismissed from officeauthorities said and three members of the Memphis Fire Department who responded to the scene have been fired. Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said two deputies were also relieved of duty.
“The sad reality is that police brutality will be a constant threat to black and brown Americans unless cops consistently see that those who use blunt force will go to jail. They need to understand that a badge is not a shield that allows them to kill someone during a traffic stop.” Sharpton said in a statement after the police records were released. “And the only way to do that is through sentencing and legislation. I thank the Department of Justice for launching a civil rights investigation and urge his attorneys to be prompt and transparent. Our entire nation must unite to condemn this grotesque violation of human rights. ”