MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris plans to attend funeral Tyr Nicholswho died three days after being beaten by Memphis police officers minutes from his home, the White House said Tuesday.
Harris was invited to Wednesday’s funeral by Nichols’ mother and stepfather, RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, according to Harris’ spokeswoman Kirsten Allen. On Tuesday, Harris spoke to the Wells family by phone, offering his condolences and support. Last week, President Joe Biden spoke by phone with the Nichols family.
Harris will be joined by former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the president’s senior adviser on public affairs, and Mitch Landrieu, the White House’s senior adviser and coordinator for infrastructure implementation, who is a former mayor of New Orleans, Allen said.
Five black officers were fired and is charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the Jan. 7 beating and subsequent death of Nichols. Video of the beating, which was released last week, shows that many more people failed to help Nichols, who was also Black, than the five officers charged in his death.
Two other Memphis police officers have been disciplined three employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations shot in connection with Nichols’ death, officials said Monday. Officer Preston Hemphill, who is white, and another officer, whose name has not been released, were suspended, police said.
Some Memphis media reported late Tuesday that four of the five officers charged in the killing in the case had prior violations on their records, according to personnel files obtained through records requests. Most of it concerns procedural violations, accidents involving cars and machinery. Two of the officers, Demetrius Haley and Desmond Mills Jr., were reprimanded for failing to file a “Resistance Response” form after incidents involving women they arrested, according to the files.
Nichols’ family, the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump planned to gather Tuesday night at the historic Masonic Temple in Memphis, where Martin Luther King gave his final speech the night before the assassination, to talk about recent developments in the case. The bad weather caused some confusion about whether the event would go ahead, but Terrence Cullen, a spokesman for Sharpton’s organization, said Sharpton and others still plan to go.
The six officers involved were part of the so-called Scorpion unit, which dealt with violent criminals in high-crime areas. According to Crump’s statement, other Memphis residents who allege they were also subjected to “animal abuse” by the unit’s officers will also speak at the Masonic Temple.
Police Chief Serelin “CJ” Davis said after the video was released the squad is disbanded.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but because of the gravity of the situation, it’s not enough,” Damion Carrick said during Monday night’s protest at Shelby Farms Park. “A person is dragged out of the car, beaten to death, and no one does anything. The soul is torn.”
Nichols’ death was the latest in a series of early reports of police use of force that were later shown to have minimized or absent violent and sometimes deadly encounters.
Memphis Police Department officers used tasers, batons and fists as they beat Nichols during the overnight arrest. The video shows Nichols fled from officers toward his home after being pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Video footage released Friday shows the 29-year-old father calling out to his mother and struggling with his injuries as he sits helplessly on the sidewalk.
The five officers chattered and fidgeted for several minutes while Nichols remained on the ground, but other officers were on the scene. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been suspended without pay while their conduct is investigated.
Nichols’ older brother, Jamal Dupree, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday that he feels guilty for not being there to protect his younger brother.
“I’m 99% sure my brother has never fought before. And the one time he got into an argument with other people, we weren’t there to protect him. My brother tried to cooperate with them,” Dupree, who lives in California, said of the Memphis officers.
Dupre said he did not watch the police video.
“I already knew how they treated him because I saw it all over the world,” Dupree said. “Police brutality is not new. I already knew that they treated my brother like an animal. They treated him like nothing. I don’t have to watch the video to know that.”
He said he has seen messages about his brother and thinks other people will learn about who he was as a person.
“I think people really know that my brother didn’t deserve this,” he told CNN. “He was not that kind of person. Yeah, he was just a nice guy on the board. … We want justice.”
Nichols’ sister, Keyanna Dixon, was among more than 100 friends, family and supporters who gathered for a candlelight vigil Monday night at the Sacramento skate park where Nichols grew up, according to The Sacramento Bee.
“It was his favorite place to skate,” she said at the vigil. “I just want to thank you all for your continued support of our family and making sure his name is never forgotten.”
A childhood friend, Ryan Wilson, said he met Nichols at a skate park when he was 12 and the two became fast friends, sharing dreams for the future. Nichols had some struggles in his youth, but he focused on making others happy, Wilson said.
“I just feel like all he wanted to do was find his place in this world and he just wanted to be happy,” Wilson said.
RowVaughn and Rodney Wells have accepted the invitation to participate President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union address next week at the Capitol. They will attend with party member Stephen Horsford, D-Nevada and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to Vincent Evans, a spokesman for the caucus.
A funeral for Nichols is scheduled for Wednesday at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis. Sharpton will deliver the eulogy and Crump will speak immediately following the burial. Tamika Palmer, the mother, is expected to attend Breona Taylorand Philanise Floyd, a brother George Floyd.
The deaths of Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police have sparked nationwide protests against racial injustice.
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