March 23, 2023

Tyre Nichols, whose violent arrest and subsequent death prompted widespread grief and outrage, will be laid to rest Wednesday in Memphis. Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after he was beaten by police at a traffic stop. Five officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder.

His funeral will be attended by Vice President Kamala Harris, the White House announced Tuesday, along with several other administration officials. 

Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump will deliver the “call for justice,” according to the funeral program obtained by CBS News. Members of Nichols’ family will also speak.

“People from around the world watched the videotape of a man unarmed, unprovoked, being beat to death by officers of the law,” Sharpton said in a news conference Tuesday at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, where Wednesday’s service will take place. Crump was scheduled to attend Tuesday’s press conference, but his flight was canceled due to inclement weather. It was not immediately clear if the weather would prevent him from attending the funeral as well.

Nichols, who was 29 years old, worked for FedEx and had a 4-year-old son. He grew up in Sacramento but moved to Memphis right 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, told CBS News, sharing that her son had a tattoo of her name on his arm. A self-described “aspiring photographer,” his family said he loved photographing landscapes and sunsets. 

Tyre Nichols
Tyre Nichols, seen in a photo provided by his family.

Courtesy of the Nichols family via AP

Friends from his youth in California shared memories of him with CBS Sacramento. Nichols was an avid skateboarder, and his friend Jerome Neal described him as “well-loved” at his local skate park.

“He just touches anybody who gets around him,” another friend, Austin Robert, told the station. “He’s a fantastic person and that’s how I really want everybody to remember him.”

“It’s honestly pretty devastating to see such a good human go through such unnecessary brutality, such unnecessary death,” Brian Jang, a friend of Nichols’ from Memphis, told CBS News.

Nichols was on his way home when he was pulled over the night of Jan. 7 — allegedly for reckless driving, although the police chief later said no evidence was found to support that. Disturbing bodycam footage and surveillance camera video released by the city on Friday showed him being punched, kicked and pepper sprayed. 

He died Jan. 10 of what his stepfather, Rodney Wells, said was a cardiac arrest and kidney failure. An official cause of death has not been released, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said he “succumbed to his injuries.” 

Five Memphis police officers were fired and are facing charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Two other officers were relieved of duty, authorities said, and three members of the Memphis Fire Department who responded to the scene were fired. Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said two deputies have also been relieved of duty.

“The sad reality is police brutality will be an ever-present threat for Black and Brown Americans unless cops continually see that those who use blunt force will go to jail. They need to understand that a badge isn’t a shield that lets them kill someone during a traffic stop,” Sharpton said in a statement following the release of the police footage. “And the only way to do that is through convictions and legislation. I thank the Justice Department for opening a civil rights investigation and urge its lawyers to be swift and transparent. Our entire nation must come together to condemn this grotesque violation of human rights.” 

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