A story that is currently sweeping the nation involves the tragic unwarranted death of teenager Tyre Nichols.
Nichols was beaten by local police in an obscene display of injustice, unjustifiable violence, and brutality– later succumbing to his wounds and passing away. Footage from the officer’s body cameras has been released and has been sparking outrage– for good reason.
According to the Washington Post, Nichols was stopped around 8:30 pm on January 7 for alleged reckless driving in Memphis. According to the police report, “a confrontation occurred, and the suspect fled the scene on foot.”
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Police pursued the suspect, and “another confrontation occurred.” Nichols was admitted to a hospital in “critical condition” after complaining of “shortness of breath.”
According to his family, however, Nichols suffered a broken neck and went into cardiac arrest during this confrontation with police, and they released a photo of Nichols in a hospital bed — eyes swollen shut from bruising. Nichols died in the hospital three days later from kidney failure and cardiac arrest.
A Deep Pain Worsens With the Latest Tragedy
Until the body camera footage was released, these two accounts were all that existed around the situation.
The release of the footage, however, deepened an unhealed wound in the United States surrounding police violence, sparked protests, and even triggered pending legal action against the police.
The officers in question have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. The Shelby County District Attorney, Steven Mulroy, said that the detainment became unlawful at a certain point when explaining why the former police officers had been charged with kidnapping.
Describing the footage that is now public, Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said it reminded him of the Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King, the footage of which also incited protests and opened the national conversation around police reform.
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Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis also spoke about the footage before it was released to the public, describing the circumstances surrounding Nichols’s death as “horrific,” and detailing the “outrage” she expected the public to feel when they saw the footage.
Davis reportedly warned Nichol’s parents “I’m not proud of what you’re about to see,” before showing them the footage in private– according to Tyre’s stepfather, Rodney Wells.
The footage is difficult for anyone to watch, showing Tyre, only 29, being kicked, punched, and tasered less than 100 yards from his home. Nichols was violently beaten for three minutes by police officers and treated like “a human piñata,” according to lawyers for his family.
Tyre Was a Skateboarder and Photographer
While the reaction of outrage is understandable, another response has also cropped up online– one attempting to combat the disgusting act of violence with positive remembrances of Tyre, as opposed to hatred for the police officers responsible.
Family members have made an effort to remind people that Tyre Nichols was a layered individual, like all of us, and not merely a symbol to be flattened and repurposed.
His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said that her son “loved to skateboard. He loved to take pictures. He liked to go see the sunset. And most of all, he loved his mother, and he loved his son,” she said. “My son, every night, wanted to go and look at the sunset,” RowVaughn added at a January news conference.
As a response, many online have been sharing their own photographs of the sunset as a tribute to Tyre. “Let’s flood this vile darkness, with Tyre’s incandescent light,” read one tweet that urged people to use the hashtag #SunsetsForTyre.
Tyre even had his own website where he shared his work, titled This California Kid, where he shared “Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. “I take different types of photography, anywhere from action sports to rural photos, to bodies of water and my favorite.. landscape photography.” See a few more example below.
#SunsetsForTyre Trends on Twitter
The chain of replies continues, with countless people sharing their own photographs of the sunset in honor of Tyre.
There have also been talks of building a skatepark in honor of Tyre to pay tribute to his love for the sport. While there is certainly a place for protest and similar reactions to injustice, these positive outpourings and contributions offer a refreshing avenue to process grief and anger.
While the nation is still reeling from the unjustified act of violence, and mourning the loss of Tyre Nichols, the outpouring of love and remembrance is a beautiful reminder of our capacity for empathy.
Hopefully, it also keeps the conversation surrounding police reform alive and progressive, and we do not have to witness more unnecessary acts of corrupt violence.