Tyre Nichols funeral begins with thousands of mourners descending on Memphis church

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Tyre Nichols’ mom broke down as she paid a heartbreaking tribute to her son while thousands of mourners filled his funeral in Memphis. 

Among those who paid their respects to Nichols, the 29-year-old unarmed black man who was brutally beaten following a traffic stop, included Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights leader Ben Crump. 

Several speakers used the occasion to call for urgent police reform, with Vice President Kamala Harris saying: ‘We demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. It’s non-negotiable.’ 

Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells tearfully told the crowd: ‘We need to pass that bill because if we don’t the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands.’

Nichols died on January 10, three days after he was brutally beaten by several Memphis police officers. 

Tyre Nichols funeral begins with thousands of mourners descending on Memphis church

Thousands have descended on a Memphis church Wednesday for the funeral of Tyre Nichols, 29, a father-of-one

Tyre Nichols' mom RowVaughn Wells broke down as she paid a heartbreaking tribute to her son

Tyre Nichols’ mom RowVaughn Wells broke down as she paid a heartbreaking tribute to her son 

Wells called for the passage of police reform in Congress, tearfully telling the crowd: 'We need to pass that bill because if we don't the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands'

Wells called for the passage of police reform in Congress, tearfully telling the crowd: ‘We need to pass that bill because if we don’t the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands’

Vice-President Kamala Harris demanded police reform as a 'non-negotiable' at the service George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Vice-President Kamala Harris demanded police reform as a ‘non-negotiable’ at the service George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy for Tyre Nichols on Wednesday afternoon

Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy for Tyre Nichols on Wednesday afternoon

As the ceremony got underway on Wednesday, the reverend remembered Nichols as a ‘good person, a beautiful soul, a son, a father, a brother, a friend, a human being, gone too soon.’

He said Nichols was ‘denied his rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness’ and was ‘denied [his] right to hold his son.’

Turner concluded his remarks by saying the pattern of black people being killed by police officers will be ‘canceled and will not be renewed.’ 

‘We’re going to overcome in this struggle for justice for our brother Tyre Nichols,’ he told the mourners.

The reverend added that the brutal attack on Nichols was ‘particularly offensive’ to the community because it was perpetrated by five black men. 

‘You didn’t get there by yourself,’ he said. 

‘People had to march for you… how dare you act like we didn’t fight for you.’ 

As he continued his eulogy following remarks from Vice-President Harris, Sharpton called for an end to qualified immunity while condemning the officers who killed Nichols. 

‘You don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself,’ he said. 

‘You don’t fight gangs by becoming five men against an unarmed man. That’s not policing, that’s punks.

‘If that man had been white, I believe you wouldn’t have beat him that night. We’re not asking for anything special, we’re just asking to be treated fair.’ 

Sharpton also echoed Harris’ call for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as he said people would have to pay the ‘same dues’ of the civil rights era to make meaningful change. 

Addressing Tyre Nichols’ family, Sharpton said: ‘We’ll be there with them when the cameras are gone, when there is no longer a story… it doesn’t matter how long. 

‘We are wedded in this struggle together.’  

Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, cried as she and her husband, Rodney Wells, attended her son's funeral service on Wednesday

Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, cried as she and her husband, Rodney Wells, attended her son’s funeral service on Wednesday

Crump is pictured with Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells

RowVaughn Wells is pictured placing a flower on her son's casket ahead of the ceremony

RowVaughn Wells is pictured placing a flower on her son’s casket ahead of the ceremony

Attorney Ben Crump is pictured arriving to attend the funeral service on Wednesday

Attorney Ben Crump is pictured arriving to attend the funeral service on Wednesday

Flowers were delivered for the ceremony ahead of the Celebration of Life

Flowers were delivered for the ceremony ahead of the Celebration of Life 

Several speakers have given eulogies at the service, which is being held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church Wednesday afternoon

Several speakers have given eulogies at the service, which is being held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church Wednesday afternoon

Harris appeared alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump to call for passage of the

Harris appeared alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump to call for passage of the 

Taking the stage after Sharpton, civil rights attorney Ben Crump thanked the reverend for his work in bringing attention to police brutality. 

‘For every George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, there are 100’s of others out there being killed,’ he said. 

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‘Without local activists, we never would have heard the name Tyre Nichols.’ 

The attorney also mirrored Sharpton’s support for police reform after Kamala Harris called it a ‘non-negotiable’. 

He noted that there would be a ‘duty to intervene’ policy included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that was championed by the VP earlier in the service, as Crump urged for quicker action against such crimes. 

‘In this call to action, we build his legacy,’ he added. 

‘We have to remember Memphis… it is important that the community sees swift justice.’ 

Speaking after Crump’s call to action, Nichols’ sisters paid a heartbreaking tribute to their fallen brother, reciting poetry and condemning how Tyre’s death led ‘losing my faith’.

‘I screamed and cried at how this could happen. It is a pain I have never felt, when those monsters hurt my baby brother. Even in his demise he was still police. He asked them to ‘please’ stop.

‘I will always love by baby brother.’ 

Tyre’s parents thanked the crowd and activists for their support following the attack, as his stepfather Rodney Wells said: ‘The journey is not going to end here, it is just beginning.’ 

‘We are looking forward to getting justice, this is a continual fight. We can’t continue to let these people brutalize our kids.’ 

He also slammed the aftermath of the killing, where he said the manner in which Tyre’s killing was recalled to him was full of ‘lies and deceit’. 

‘The truth will always come to light,’ he added. 

Nichols’ mother RowVaughn issued a heartbreaking call for police reform, echoing calls from Vice President Harris and Ben Crump, she urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

She said: ‘We need to pass that bill because if we don’t the next child that dies, that blood is going to be on their hands.

‘The only thing keeping me going is believing my son was sent on an assignment. And now that assignment is over he has gone home.

‘Tyre was a beautiful person.’  

Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday morning he plans to address police brutality in his eulogy

Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday morning he plans to address police brutality in his eulogy

Nichols has been described as a skateboarder and amateur photographer who worked making boxes at FedEx, made friends during his morning visits to Starbucks, and always greeted his mother and stepfather by saying: ‘Hello parents.’

He was the youngest of his siblings, born 12 years after his next older sibling. Nichols had a 4-year-old son and worked hard to better himself as a father, his family said.

Nichols grew up in Sacramento, California, and loved the San Francisco 49ers.

He moved to Memphis just before the coronavirus pandemic and got stuck. But he was fine with it because he was with his mother, RowVaughn Wells, and they were incredibly close, she said. He even had her name tattooed on his arm.

Friends at a memorial service last week described him as joyful and kind, quick with a smile, often silly.

‘This man walked into a room, and everyone loved him,’ said Angelina Paxton, a friend who traveled to Memphis from California for the memorial service.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sharpton told MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski how he plans to address police brutality in his eulogy.

He said the ‘only comfort’ that he can afford Nichols’ family ‘is that we will stand with them and fight in the name of Tyre and others to try and change the legal and legislative structure that deals with policing in this country.’

He also noted that he and Nichols’ family are ‘united in passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,’ saying he has been ‘talking with my colleagues and civil rights leadership as well as members of the Senate to really try and push police reform in light of this.

‘To go to Memphis and think Martin Luther King died here on a cold balcony in April 1968, and we’re here now where five black cops beat an unarmed man to death and there’s no federal legislation that addresses this shows the shame that we have of what has happened to Tyre Nichols,’ Sharpton told the Morning Joe hosts.

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‘To think that Dr. King died to put blacks on the police force and they’re acting in as brutal a force as any racist police is why we’re here today, and I’m going to address that directly in the eulogy,’ he said.

Sharpton added that he thinks ‘it’s a bit fitting the first black woman vice president will be there because this building where Dr. King died will show how far we came from.

‘As Joe [Biden] was in Europe last week to show the human carnage, how low we can be, now we have to rise up together to fight this. We can’t just accept it.’ 

Vice President Kamala Harris is seen arriving for the funeral of Tyre Nichols

Vice President Kamala Harris is seen arriving for the funeral of Tyre Nichols

Jim Strickland, mayor of Memphis, welcomed U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris

Jim Strickland, mayor of Memphis, welcomed U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris

Tristan Strickland, left, and Dan Beazley, right, hold up a cross in front of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church

Tristan Strickland, left, and Dan Beazley, right, hold up a cross in front of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church

Harrowing video released last week showed Nichols crying out for his mother as he is pinned to the ground by multiple officers, pepper sprayed in the face, kicked and punched in the head, while struck with a metal baton.

Police hit him at least nine times during the nearly five minute altercation, just 80 yards from his home, as they continued to scream profanities at him.

Then, even after paramedics arrived, Nichols had to wait for nearly half an hour slumped over the pavement for any significant medical treatment.

Eventually, he was transported to a local hospital, where he would succumb to his injuries three days later. 

The violent incident began with officers dragging Nichols from the driver's seat of his car as he yells out, 'D**n, I didn't do anything ... I am just trying to go home'

The violent incident began with officers dragging Nichols from the driver’s seat of his car as he yells out, ‘D**n, I didn’t do anything … I am just trying to go home’

After fleeing towards his mother's house and being tasered by one of the cops, Nichols is tackled and held down by two officers, who repeatedly shout 'give me your hands!'

After fleeing towards his mother’s house and being tasered by one of the cops, Nichols is tackled and held down by two officers, who repeatedly shout ‘give me your hands!’

Nichols is seen sitting propped against a car following the beating on January 7

Nichos is seen sitting propped against a car following the beating on January 7

The terrifying encounter began with a traffic stop, when multiple unmarked cop cars surrounded Nichols’ vehicle and officers dragged him from the driver’s seat as one could be heard yelling, ‘Get the f*** out of the f****** car.’

‘D**n, I didn’t do anything … I am just trying to go home,’ responds Nichols. 

TIMELINE OF EVENTS IN NICHOLS’ DEATH

January 7: Police pull over Tyre Nichols on suspicion of reckless driving at 8.30pm. Tyre fled on foot after a ‘confrontation’ but was apprehended by cops soon after.

An ambulance was called to the scene after Tyre complained of shortness of breath, and was transferred to hospital in a critical condition.

January 10: Three days after the stop Tyre, 29, died from his injuries sustained in the incident. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that they were looking into his death.

January 15: Five officers are relieved of duty while the investigation into their use of force continues. Preliminary findings indicate the serious nature of the offences. All of the officers were given a notice regarding the impeding administrative actions.

January 18: The Department of Justice announces that a civil rights investigation has been opened into the death of Tyre.

January 20: Memphis Police Department identifies, and fires five offices involved in the traffic stop, due to their violation of multiple department polices.

Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr, and Justin Smith’s jobs were terminated for failing in their ‘excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid’.

Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’ ‘initial patient care’ were also fired.

January 23: The family of Tyre Nichols and their attorney, Ben Crump, view the footage of his arrest for the first time. Crump compares it to the assault of Rodney King by LAPD officers in 1991.

January 26: All five officers are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.

January 27: Four of the former officers each paid bond of $250,000 each to be released after their arrest. Body-cam footage of the assault is released.

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‘On the ground, on the ground,’ an officer says as cops force Nichols to the ground, order him to lay on his stomach and squirt him in the face with pepper spray.

‘Alright, I’m on the ground,’ Nichols can be heard saying, with a cop responding profanely: ‘B***h, put your hands behind your back before I …. I’m going to knock your ass the f*** out.’

‘Get on the f****** ground. I’m going to Tase you,’ one cop says. 

‘You guys are really doing a lot right now. I’m just trying to go home,’ says Nichols. 

Several cops then began kicking Nichols as he lies on the ground. Nichols broke free, scrambles to his feet and sprinted away down a road with officers chasing him on foot. 

One officer then fires a taser at Nichols, but later remarks that only one prong struck him, meaning the circuit was not completed and the electric shock was not delivered. 

After running for roughly half a mile, Nichols is seen being tackled and held down by two other officers involved in the pursuit, who repeatedly shout ‘give me your hands!’ 

Other cops are seen arriving on foot as Nichols is being pinned down. One sprays pepper spray at Nichols, also hitting himself in the face. 

Two officers held Nichols to the ground as he moves about, then the third appears to kick him in the head. 

He slumped more fully onto the pavement with all three officers surrounding him. The same officer then kicks him again. 

The officer who used the pepper spray then extends a telescoping metal baton, shouting, ‘I’m gonna baton the f*** out of him!’ before striking Nichols three times in the back.

Several officers are later seen propping Nichols up on his feet as one and punches his face. Nichols stumbles and turns, still held up by two officers. 

The officer who punched him then walked around to Nichols’ front and punches him three more times. Then Nichols collapsed. 

Nichols is heard repeatedly screaming, ‘Mom! Mom!’ during the struggle, but goes silent after blows to his face.

After Nichols is handcuffed, he appeared to be unresponsive and unable to sit upright. 

As the minutes tick by, cops are heard cursing, wisecracking and ordering him to sit up as he slumps over onto the pavement. 

Even after paramedics arrive on the scene, they do not appear to render immediate aid.

In total, Nichols lied on the pavement for more than 19 minutes as at least eight cops mill around the scene, flushing pepper spray out of their own eyes.

Nearly half an hour after the assault, an ambulance finally pulled up and a stretcher was unloaded to transport Nichols to the hospital.

Memphis Police Officers (top, left to right) Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, and (bottom, left to right) Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tyre Nichols

Charged with second degree murder are (top, left to right) Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, and (bottom, left to right) Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith

Preston Hemphill has also been suspended with pay pending a hearing, but was spared criminal charges

Preston Hemphill has been suspended with pay pending a hearing, but was spared criminal charges

In the aftermath, Memphis authorities announced that five black officers were relieved from duty.

Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean were later charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression in the fatal beating of Nichols.

Preston Hemphill was also suspended with pay pending a hearing, but has so far been spared the criminal charges filed against his five police colleagues. 

Hemphill, 26, who joined the force in 2018, wore the body-camera that captured the first of four videos released by authorities on Friday of the traffic stop and violent confrontation that followed.

In the video, Hemphill is seen ‘violently pulling Nichols from his car while hitting him on the ground with a taser, later saying, “I hope they stomp his a**” after Nichols ran away’, the family’s lawyers said.

A seventh officer who was not immediately identified has also been relieved of duty without pay, the police department said. 

Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has said an unspecified number of officers besides the five initially implicated remained under investigation for policy infractions stemming from the arrest of Nichols.

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