Tyre Nichols funeral: Sharpton delivers fiery eulogy, Harris calls for police reform
Memorial services were held Wednesday for the 29-year-old who died after being beaten by police in Memphis during a traffic stop.
Mourners gathered Wednesday for the funeral of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who died after being brutally beaten by police in Memphis during a traffic stop last month.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the service inside Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in the city at the urging of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered a fiery eulogy.
“You don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself,” Sharpton said of the officers charged in Nichols’s death. “You don't stand up to thugs in the street becoming thugs yourself. You don’t fight gangs by becoming five armed men against an unarmed man. That ain’t the police. That’s punks.”
Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor; Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd; and filmmaker Spike Lee were also in attendance at the service, which was delayed by an ice storm and lasted more than two hours.
Yahoo News is providing live updates from the funeral as well as key developments in the case.
Family members mourn
Keyana Dixon speaks during the funeral service for her brother Tyre Nichols at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis on Wednesday. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)
"My brother was robbed of his life, his passions and his talents, but not his light," Keyana Dixon, Tyre Nichols's older sister, said in prepared remarks. "When my mother called me and said my baby brother was gone, I lost my faith. I cried. I screamed at God asking how could he let this happen. And then my cries turned to anger. And anger turned to deep sorrow and a pain I never felt when those monsters murdered my baby brother."
Nichols's godsister, LaToya Yizar, read a poem she wrote, titled "I'm just trying to go home."
During the fatal encounter, Nichols told officers that he just wanted to go home, and as he was being beaten, he called out for his mother. Her home was about 100 yards away.
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols's mother, fought through tears as she urged lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
"We've got to get that bill passed," she said.
— Dylan Stableford
Sharpton delivers fiery eulogy
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivers the eulogy at Tyre Nichols's funeral in Memphis on Wednesday. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)
In his eulogy, the Rev. Al Sharpton singled out the five Black Memphis police officers indicted for their roles in Nichols's death.
Noting that the alleged crimes took place not far from the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968, while waging a protest campaign to try to ensure the safety of Black workers in the city, Sharpton drew a line connecting the legacy of the slain civil rights hero to the killing of Nichols.
"The reason why, Mr. and Mrs. Wells [Nichols's stepfather and mother], what happened to Tyre is so personal to me is that five Black men that wouldn't have had a job in the police department, would not ever be thought of to be in an elite squad in the city that Dr. King lost his life, not far away from that balcony, you beat a brother to death," Sharpton said in his address.
“You don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself,” he continued. "You don't stand up to thugs in the street [by] becoming thugs yourself. You don't fight gangs by becoming five armed men against an unarmed man. That ain't the police, that's punks."
Sharpton received multiple standing ovations during his remarks, which lasted more than 20 minutes.
Addressing the release of video footage showing the officers beating Nichols, Sharpton said, "The tape speaks for itself."
Harris demands police reform
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the funeral service for Tyre Nichols at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis on Wednesday. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)
At the urging of the Rev. Al Sharpton, Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the service.
Harris acknowledged the "courage and strength" of Tyre Nichols's family.
"This is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence at the hands and the feet of people who had been charged with keeping them safe," Harris said. "And when I think about the courage and the strength of this family, I think it demands that we speak truth, and with this I will say this violent act was not in pursuit of public safety.
"It was not in the interest of keeping the public safe," she continued. "Tyre Nichols should have been safe."
Harris concluded her remarks by demanding that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
"It is nonnegotiable," she said.
— Dylan Stableford
Attorney Ben Crump and Tyre Nichols's parents arrive at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis ahead of the funeral service for Nichols on Wednesday. (Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)
RowVaughn Wells and her husband, Rodney, arrive for the funeral. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)
A mourner enters Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church ahead of the funeral. (Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)
Below is the official program for today's funeral service:
Celebration of Life for Tyre Nichols
Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church
70 North Bellevue Boulevard
Feb. 1st, 2023
Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, Senior Pastor & Officiant
Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network & Eulogist
• Procession: Rev. Al Sharpton, Clergy & Family
• Musical Selection: Celebration Choir
• The Scriptures
- Old Testament: Rev. Dr. Marvin Mercer, of Mt. Olive M.B. Church
- New Testament: Rev. Dr. Keith Norman, of First Baptist Church, Broad
• Prayer of comfort: Rev. Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, of Freedom's Chapel Christian Church
• Musical selection: Celebration Choir
• Reading of Obituary & Photo Montage
• Introduction of the Eulogist: Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner
• Musical selection: Celebration Choir
• The Eulogy: Rev. Al Sharpton
• Call for Justice: Attorney Benjamin Crump
• Reflections: The Family of Tyre Nichols
• Words of Comfort (2 minutes)
- Rev. Rodney Woodley
- Rev. Dr. Earle Fisher, Abyssinian Baptist Church
- Bishop Marvin Thomas, 1st Episcopal District, CME
- Bishop Brandon Porter, Secretary of General Board, COGIC
• Acknowledgment of Special Guest and Elected Officials
• Benediction: Rev. Deves Toon, National Field Director of National Action Network
Nichols's brother speaks out
Jamal Dupree. (CNN)
On the eve of Tyre Nichols’s funeral, his older brother, Jamal Dupree, shared the overwhelming regret he has for not being present to protect his brother early last month as officers pummeled his body with punches and kicks until it became limp.
“I’ve been fighting my whole life, and the one fight I needed to be here for, I wasn’t here,” Dupree said Tuesday evening at the historic Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis as he gathered with other family members and the Rev. Al Sharpton to share the latest developments in the case. Dupree recalled that his brother was anything but violent.
“My brother was the most peaceful person I’ve ever met in life,” he said. “If my brother was here today and he had to say something, he’d tell us to do this peacefully.”
Social media reflects on Tyre Nichols’s life instead of watching police video
Tyre Nichols. (Courtesy of Ryan Wilson via AP)
As the violent video of Tyre Nichols’s death circulates online, social media users are choosing to celebrate the life lived by the son, father, avid skateboarder and photographer.
Nichols’s family has also provided a video that features various videos of Nichols doing what they say he loved: skateboarding and capturing beautiful sunsets. Many have shared the video as an alternative to sharing the bodycam footage released by the city of Memphis last week.
Mental health experts have cautioned against viewing and posting the video of his fatal beating. Instead, they are offering ways to reflect on his life as a healthy alternative.
“I think what you want is to be part of feeling like you're moving the field forward, the society forward,” Dr. Ken Duckworth, the chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told Yahoo News. “If you're not engaged in doing something about it, the risk of re-traumatizing yourself is just really high. If you can find a way to join with some kind of participation, I think that helps us deal with helplessness.”
The family has also started a GoFundMe. Nichols’s mother said those funds will help cover their family’s mental health services and the loss of funds from not having unlimited paid time off. Wells said the GoFundMe would also go toward creating a memorial skate park for Nichols, “in honor of his love for skating and sunset.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to attend funeral
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. (Mandel Ngan/Reuters/File)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, will be attending Tyre Nichols’s funeral on Wednesday.
During a phone call with Yahoo News, Lee said the brutal beating that Nichols received is a reminder that police reform at the federal level is a necessity.
“This is not just ink and paper. These are lives that have been lost and families whose pain will last forever," she told Yahoo News.
She added: “My thoughts and prayers are with these families. And I know their response to me would be — let's get something done.”
Family attorneys question white officer’s discipline
Ben Crump speaks at a news conference with the family of Tyre Nichols last week. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
Attorneys for Tyre Nichols’s family this week expressed disappointment with the Memphis Police Department over news that a sixth officer involved in the traffic stop had been relieved of duty, but has not been fired or charged as were the five Black officers, who have been charged with second-degree murder, among other offenses.
“We have asked from the beginning that the Memphis Police Department be transparent with the family and the community — this news seems to indicate that they haven’t risen to the occasion,” civil rights and personal injury attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a joint statement Monday.
Later, the department announced that a seventh officer was relieved of duty. Officials also announced that two emergency medical technicians and a lieutenant were also terminated Monday by the Memphis Fire Department for violating department policies.
"This video is a watershed moment for America."
— Civil rights attorney Ben Crump on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday following the release of footage showing Tyre Nichols being beaten by Memphis police