Family members of police brutality victims, White House officials, and loved ones of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man fatally beaten by Memphis officers, gathered on Wednesday (February 1) for his funeral.
Nichols, 29, died on January 10, just three days after officers beat him during a traffic stop.
A large crowd gathered Wednesday at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church to "celebrate the life of Tyre Nichols, a good person, a beautiful soul, a son, a father, a brother, a friend,” Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, senior pastor and officiant, said to begin the service. “A human being gone too soon, denied his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Notably, Vice President Kamala Harris was in attendance at the celebration of life and called to speak onstage by Rev. Al Sharpton, per NBC News.
“This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety,” Harris said. "Was he not also entitled to the right to be safe?"
"Tyre Nichols should've been safe," she continued.
The vice president went on to demand Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which she pledged President Joe Biden would sign.
"We should not delay and we will not be denied, it is non-negotiable."
Sharpton also delivered a powerful eulogy as he did for Floyd, whose family, as well as members of Breonna Taylor's family, also attended the funeral. Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Nichols' family, is set to give a "call for justice" at the funeral, days after Memphis released police footage of officers pepper spraying, punching, and kicking Nichols in the face during the stop.
The Memphis Police Department said in its initial statement that Nichols was pulled over on January 7 for alleged reckless driving. Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis later said there was no evidence to support the alleged reason behind the stop.
Nichols complained of shortness of breath after a "confrontation" with police and was transported to a hospital where he later died.
The Shelby County medical examiner’s office hasn't released Nichols' official cause of death. However, preliminary results of an autopsy report sought out by the family's attorneys suggest he “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."
Five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired earlier this month in connection to Nichols' death and charged last week with second-degree murder aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and official oppression.
A sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, was "relieved of duty" on Monday for his involvement in the traffic stop where police fatally beat Nichols, along with a seventh officer, who remains unnamed.
Nichols leaves behind his mother, RowVaughn Wells, his stepfather, Rodney Wells, and his four-year-old son.
During the funeral, Harris commended Nichols' parents for their strength and grace as they mourn the loss of their 29-year-old son.
"You have been extraordinary in terms of your strength, your courage, and your grace, and we mourn with you and the people of our country mourn with you," Harris said. "Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God, when they hold that child, that that body and that life will be safe for the rest of his life. Yet, we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today. They have a grandson who now does not have a father."
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