The Tragic Death of Tyre Nichols


Danielle O’Brien, editor

For those that read headlines concerning the protests for Tyre Nichols, it may be just another black man who fell victim to police brutality which the public is outraged over. But to his grieving mother and son, it was a loved one who would never come home from the hospital, nor be able to see his 30th birthday. Nichols’ fate was served to him unjustly and untimely at the hands of five Memphis Police officers at the start of the 2023 new year, on Jan 7., 2023. What first started as a traffic stop by Memphis police resulted in Nichols landing in the hospital where he lay “unrecognizable” even by family members for three days until his death.

On Saturday, Jan. 7, at 8:24 p.m., Tyre Nichols’s car, was stopped by police of the SCORPION unit for suspicion of reckless driving. At 8:25 p.m., Nichols was forcibly removed from his vehicle by police and pulled to the ground where Nichols is recorded by police body cameras saying, “OK! I am on the ground,” and, “You guys are really doing a lot right now. I’m just trying to go home,”. As police officers try to detain and arrest Tyre, he manages to escape the police and run for about 0.5 miles toward his mother’s home before being grabbed again by police officers. The second interaction was recorded by a street camera. It finds an apprehended Tyre being pepper sprayed to the ground. Once in custody, Tyre is pinned down by two officers while one kicks him in the face twice. It is then that a fourth officer comes along and strikes Tyre with a baton twice. The officer who previously kicked Tyre in the face then proceeds to punch him five times before Tyre slumps to the ground where he is kicked a few more times. Tyre is heard on the camera as desperately and repeatedly crying out for his mom whose house is less than 60 yards away at this point. According to the Washington Post, Tyre’s mom, RowVaughn Wells, remarked “to find out that my son was calling my name, and I was only feet away, and didn’t even hear him — you have no clue how I feel right now… My son loved me to death, and I loved him to death”.

It is important to note that during the entirety of the second altercation, a police officer is repeatedly asking for Tyre’s hands although the street camera footage reveals Tyre’s hands to be held behind his back at this point (20:35:16 in Video 3 of the Vimeo). It is speculated that at this point, the police officer yelling for Tyre’s hands did so on purpose for his body cam audio. Considering his bodycam footage would have likely been indistinguishable as Tyre is against him, the audio when being reviewed would be the police officer attesting that Tyre was not cooperating. What the five police officers failed to notice was that the streetlight camera was recording the entire altercation, including the part where the officer asks for Tyre’s hands although they are behind his ABC, and Tyre is repeatedly getting punched and slapped in the face. At 8:41 when the ambulance arrives, Tyre in handcuffs is propped up against a police car but repeatedly slumps over, and although Tyre voices that he has trouble breathing, he is not treated until 15 minutes later. Three parts of the interaction that were released by the City of Memphis to Vimeo on Jan 27 were police body camera video which has audio (videos 1,3 & 4). The other video provided by the street light in which Tyre was beaten does not have audio (video 2). Nevertheless, the streetlight footage remains important as it corroborates the audio of the police body camera recorded at the same time but often which did not have any visibility. <img width=”624″ height=”360″ src=”–z-x3dOezn1wHbk0AJHot8VFbW0&#8243; alt=”<p>From left are officers Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean

In regards to how the City of Memphis handled what happened to Tyre, on Jan. 7, the five police officers— Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith — are fired from the Memphis police department as investigation concerning Tyre’s death found said police officers to have “used excessive force and failed in their duties to intervene and render aid”(Kennedy, 2023). This failure by officers to render Tyre aid led to his death in the hospital, 5 days after the beating on Jan 11, 2023. On Jan 24, an autopsy revealed the 29-year-old’s cause of death to be from the extensive bleeding caused by the police officers which was exacerbated by his neglect of care once in custody. On Jan. 26th, all five officers were charged with Nichols’ murder. The five police officers are currently indicted on several charges, including second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, official misconduct, and official misconduct and official oppression. Bond for the five police officers has ranged from $250,000 to $350,000 according to the New York Post. The Memphis Police Department itself has undergone swift action to see justice to the situation. After all, on Jan. 28th issued a statement to the public announcing the permanent disbanding of the SCORPION unit which the five police officers were a part of. Interestingly, while the unit stands for Scorpion unit stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods, it has certainly transpired the opposite. The statement described, “it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION unit”.

Tyre Nichols Photography

Tyre is remembered as being a vivacious and friendly person all around. Tyre moved from Sacramento during the pandemic to Memphis where he worked with his step-father as a FedEx delivery driver. Tyre was often regarded by his mother as “an honest man, a wonderful son, and kind to everyone”. He loved sunsets, he loved his son, and he loved his mom. But Tyre also had a creative side. Tyre was a wonderful skateboarder and had a large passion for photography. Tyre liked to share his passion for photography with the world during the time he was alive, especially through his website. When opening the website, Tyre addresses a message to his views, saying…

My name is Tyre D. Nichols. I am an aspiring photographer. Well, I mostly do this stuff for fun but I enjoy it very much. Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people. I take different types of photography, anywhere from action sports to rural photos, to bodies of water and my favorite… landscape photography. My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens. People have a story to tell why not capture it instead of doing the “norm” and writing it down or speaking it. I hope to one day let people see what I see and to hopefully admire my work based on the quality and ideals of my work. So on that note enjoy my page and let me know what you think. 

Your friend, 

-Tyre D. Nichols

 It is my hope that Tyre may at least rest in peace knowing that in the end, the world did see what he saw through his eyes. And what people have seen is making them take to the streets for justice.

Tyre Nichols Photography

In reaction across the country, protests have resurfaced demanding justice for Tyre in cities such as Memphis and Philadelphia as well as justice for the countless other lives taken by police brutality. The reaction to Tyre’s death by the American public, while unsurprising, is certainly not as predictable as the reaction by political representatives. Although many political figures agree that what happened to Tyre was wrong, they often stick to just that… Tyre’s situation was an example of where policing can go wrong rather than a signal of something more. Other politicians find that there needs to be more general reform to the policing system to end this repetitive story. Vice President Harris and President Biden released a statement on Jan. 27 on the need for Congress to review the George Floyd Policing Act initially introduced to the Senate in 2021. Ben Crump, the Nichols’ family lawyer, echoed this need. Other political representatives aside from agreeing that what happened to Tyre was a crime, are unable to come to a sound resolution on whether this scenario requires widespread change.

Many will argue in the face of what happened to Tyre and many other victims of police brutality that “they should have cooperated”. But as clearly demonstrated from the street camera footage, even when rendered defenseless, Tyre was treated with unnecessary force simply out of the frustration of police officers. Furthermore, a lack of cooperation without any threat of violence against the officers did not constitute that Tyre should have had to die. Neither should have any other victims of police brutality. The difference between should and will, however, remains up to our elected politicians.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s