TENNESSEE; MEMPHIS – In the wake of the violent police beating of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old father and enthusiastic skateboarder, his family and friends were joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and the Rev. Al Sharpton for a funeral on Wednesday that was expected to bring thousands.
RowVaughn Wells, her son’s mother, expressed gratitude to community members who had rallied to the family’s defence and commended the legal team and law enforcement for their prompt response. Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, has claimed the family will seek justice not only for his stepson but for all those who have died while in police custody.
“Tyre was a beautiful person, and for this to happen to him was simply inconceivable,” RowVaughn Wells said.
Harris made a brief speech at the service to express his gratitude to Nichols’ loved ones. She characterised his death as “violent” and “not in the interest of keeping the public safe,” which occurred three days after he was pummelling by Memphis police officers who have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder.
“Did he not have a right to feel secure?” Harris remarked at his talk at the Christian Church on Mississippi Boulevard in Memphis.
The Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, the senior pastor of the church, called Nichols “a good person, a beautiful soul, a son, a father, a brother, a friend, a human being,” and the 70-person choir sang “Strength Like No Other” to kick off the service, which had been postponed due to weather and travel disruptions.
Turner remarked, “We have come with heavy hearts that can only be healed by the grace of God, complete openness and accountability, and sweeping legislative reform.”
After a photo presentation of Nichols, who was assaulted for three minutes during a traffic stop and foot chase on January 7 (as seen on body-worn and utility pole camera footage released by the Memphis Police Department), mourners were asked to recite Nichols’ obituary. Nichols is seen being pepper sprayed, kicked, punched, hit with a baton, and shot with a stun gun by the officers.
Nichols was severely injured in the beating and passed away three days later. An autopsy ordered by his relatives revealed that he died of “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
Before inviting Harris to speak, civil rights leader Al Sharpton thanked Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, for attending the memorial ceremony.
They understand what it’s like to be here at a funeral, Sharpton remarked.