MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — The funeral for Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old motorist who died after a brutal traffic stop by police, was held Wednesday in Memphis, with the Rev. Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy.
Nichols was laid to rest at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, 70 N. Bellevue Blvd. in Memphis.
“Tyre was a beautiful person and for this to happen to him it’s just unimaginable,” said his mother, RowVaughn Wells, through tears. “I promise you the only thing that’s keeping me going is the fact that I really, truly believe my son was sent here on an assignment from God.”
Ben Crump, attorney for the Nichols family, delivered a “call to action” during the service.
“Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God that that body and that child will be safe for the rest of his life,” Vice President Kamala Harris said. “This violent act was not in the pursuit of public safety, it was not in the interest of keeping the public safe because one must ask, if it’s not in the interest of keeping the public safe then Tyre Nichols would be with us here today.”
Harris delivered and impassioned speech calling on Congress to approve the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a broad package of police reforms that include a national registry for police officers disciplined for misconduct, a ban on no-knock warrants and other measures.
Harris said the beating of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, by five Black police officers was a violent act that went against the stated mission of police to ensure public safety.
“It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe, because one must ask, was not it in the interest of keeping the public safe that Tyre Nichols would be with us today? Was he not also entitled to the right to be safe? So when we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means in its truest form. Tyre Nichols should have been safe,” she said.
Sharpton said the officers who beat Nichols might have acted differently if there was real accountability for their actions. He also said he believes that if Nichols had been white, “you wouldn’t have beat him like that.”
“We understand that there are concerns about public safety. We understand that there are needs that deal with crime,” Sharpton said.
“But you don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself. You don’t stand up to thugs in the street becoming thugs yourself. You don’t fight gangs by becoming five armed men against an unarmed man. That ain’t the police. That’s punks,” he said, to rousing applause from the crowd.
In a press conference after the funeral, Sharpton and Crump also talked about the importance of passing the George Floyd Policing Act and getting justice for all families impacted by police violence.
The Nichols family has agreed to head to Washington D.C. next week for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
Nichols was pepper-sprayed, beaten and kicked after running from a traffic stop toward his parents’ home in southeast Memphis the night of Jan. 7. He died three days later, severely injured in a hospital.
The latest on Tyre Nichols:
According to his obituary:
“Tyre DeAndre Nichols was born on June 5, 1993, in Sacramento, California to RowVaughn Wells and Steven Nichols (deceased). He was the youngest of four siblings. After high school, Tyre moved around until he decided to make Memphis his home. He was preparing to make Memphis his permanent home for himself and his son, Milo.
Tyre loved skateboarding, watching the sunset, photography, and most of all helping people. He had the most infectious smile.”
Five former Memphis Police officers, members of Memphis Police Department’s recently disbanded SCORPION Unit, have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. Two more have been relieved of duty, along with two sheriff’s deputies. Three fire department employees who responded have also been fired.
Tuesday night, Nichols’ family joined community activists and religious leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton at the Memphis church where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous Mountaintop speech on the eve of his assassination, calling for unity and change.
“We have a long fight ahead of us but we have to stay strong for it, so ‘Justice for Tyre. Justice for Tyre,’” Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells said.