Tyre Nichols. The name of the 29-year-old Black man who died after being brutally beaten by five Black Memphis police officers reverberates across the country. Law enforcement agencies across the country are bracing for unrest and calling for calm ahead of the release of video of Nichols’ encounter with officers.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said she knows people would be disturbed by the “egregious” nature of the video. “You are going to see acts that defy humanity. You’re going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we are all sworn to.”
She said while she fully expected citizens to protest, she asked that they do so respectfully.
“I expect our citizens to exercise their first amendment right to protest, to demand action and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process,” Davis said in a video statement. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”
According to CNN, police departments across the country, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Nashville and New York, told them they were bracing for protests and monitoring the situation carefully.
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Those who have seen the video describe the footage as reminiscent of the beating of Rodney King but the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1990s. Memphis-Shelby County Schools also announced it would be closed on Friday, Jan. 27, “in the interest of public safety.”
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, also urged for calm after the “horrific” video is released. “I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” Wells said. “And if you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
Wells detailed how she felt the night her son was beaten by the MPD officers.
“That was my baby. He was a Mama’s boy. That boy loved me to death,” Wells told CNN. “I was in the room earlier and my stomach started hurting so bad, and I went into the den and I told my husband, my stomach is hurting so bad. And once I found out what happened, it was just the fact that I was feeling my son’s pain when they were beating him to death.”
Nicols died at the hospital on Jan. 10, three days after he was beaten by officers during a stop for a potential traffic violation. According to a statement from Nichols’ family attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci, a preliminary autopsy commissioned by the family revealed the young father died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
The officers involved were Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. After an internal investigation, the MPD announced it fired them last week for violating “multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”
“This is not just a professional failing; this is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane,” Davis said.
Each former officer has been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.
Tyre Nichols is remembered fondly by those who knew and loved him. The youngest of his siblings, Nichols is described as a loving father, son and brother; who loved skateboarding, Starbucks, photograpy and meeting new people.
“I hate to think that us as Black people, we’re out here killing each other, for what? I don’t know why,” Wells said during a press release. “What happened to the humanity and kindness … Nobody’s perfect okay, nobody; but he was damn near. My son was a beautiful soul.”
“For this to happen to him in this way, the pain is just, I have no words,” Nichols’ sister, Keyana Dixon said.
A friend described Nichols as a “free spirit” and “gentleman who marched to the beat of his own drum.”
The video footage of Nichols’ encounter with police will be released at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27. His funeral will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 1, during which the Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy.