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Home ยป A Father ‘gone Too Soon’: Tyre Nichols Funeral Held In Memphis

A Father ‘gone Too Soon’: Tyre Nichols Funeral Held In Memphis

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Tyre Nichols’ family spoke at the funeral alongside Reverend Al Sharpton and high-profile attorney Ben Crump

By Madeline Halpert

BBC News, New York

Family, friends and civil rights leaders gathered in Memphis on Wednesday to mourn the death of 29-year-old father Tyre Nichols.

Mr Nichols died three days after he was beaten by police following a traffic stop.

Five officers were charged last week over his death.

Relatives as well as national figures, including Vice-President Kamala Harris and actor Spike Lee, came to Tennessee to pay their respects.

During the three-hour ceremony that featured gospel songs and African drumming, those who knew Mr Nichols spoke of a kind and caring father who enjoyed skateboarding and photography, while many called for police reforms.

Rev. Dr J. Lawrence Turner, a pastor at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, began the service by mourning a “son, father, brother, friend, human being gone too soon and denied his rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Several other prominent leaders also gave speeches, including Vice-President Harris, who told Mr Nichols’ family the country was mourning with them.

“Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God when they hold that child that that body and that life will be safe,” she said. “Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today.”

She called Mr Nichols’ death “an act of violence at the hands and the feet of people who have been charged with keeping them safe”, and called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Graphic bodycam footage of Mr Nichols’ encounter with police released last week showed him being brutally punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and hit by police officers.

Mr Nichols was black, as are the police officers now charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression.

None have not entered a plea, but lawyers for two of the men earlier said they would contest the charges.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy at the funeral in Memphis

The families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom died as a result of police violence, were also in attendance.

Mr Nichols’ siblings remembered their brother as someone who touched many lives, including older sister Keyana Dixon, who said through tears that her younger brother was “robbed of his life, his passions and his talents, but not his light”.

Mr Nichols’ other sister recited a poem titled “I’m just trying to go home”, a reference to what Mr Nichols’ told police officers in bodycam footage.

“I’ve skated across barriers designed to hold me back. I’m just trying to go home, where the love is loud and the smiles are warm, like the sunsets that come for me in the coldest of my storms,” she said.

Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton noted Mr Nichols was murdered in the same city as Dr Martin Luther King Jr 55 years before. There’s “nothing more insulting and offensive” than police officers beating their “brother” to death, he said.

“If that man had been white you wouldn’t have beat him like that that night,” he said, pledging to never let Mr Nichols’ “memory die”.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption, Mr Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump said police failed to see Mr Nichols as a human being

Ben Crump, the high-profile attorney representing Mr Nichols’ family, said police failed to see him as a human being. He said the world needed to secure “equal justice” for Mr Nichols.

He and other civil rights activists have argued police culture is to blame for Mr Nichols’ death.

They have said Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis’ swift response in charging the five police officers should be a”blueprint” for justice going forward.

Ms Davis has said the treatment of Mr Nichols “defied humanity”.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption, Tyre Nichols casket was displayed next to a drawing at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church

Mr Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, who spoke briefly during the service, also urged lawmakers to pass the George Floyd policing act because “there should be no other child that’s suffered” the way her son and many others have, she said.

The youngest of four children, Mr Nichols grew up in Sacramento, California before moving to Memphis in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic to be closer to his mother. He was a father to a four-year-old boy, and worked at FedEx with his stepfather Rodney Wells.

A photo slideshow played during the funeral displayed Mr Nichols’ many life passions, including capturing sunsets on camera and spending time with his son.