Tyre Nichols’ mother vows to fight for justice – as police unit is disbanded


The mother of Tyre Nichols has said she is “not going to stop” until every person responsible for her son’s death “is prosecuted to the fullest of the law”.

RowVaughn Wells was speaking to US news network MSNBC a day after Memphis Police released bodycam footage showing her son screaming “mom, mom” several times as he was attacked by officers.

Ms Wells said: “I believe in my heart that my son was on assignment from God. He finished his assignment and God took him back home.

“Even though this tragedy happened to my son, I truly believe that there is going to be a greater good that comes out of this.

“And that is what keeps me going to get this justice for my son, because I’m not going to stop until every person that had anything to do with my son’s death is prosecuted to the fullest of the law.”

Warning: This article contains violent images

Ms Wells went on to say that the officers she believes killed her son had “shamed their own families” and continued: “You shamed your communities. You just brought a bad taste to everybody’s mouth.

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“I hate the fact that it was five black men that actually did this to another black man. My son probably was their age.

“They just brought disgrace to themselves. I’m not an evil person, my son is not an evil person…. I pray for (the officers’) families, because their families didn’t deserve any of this either.”

RowVaughn Wells, mother of Tyre Nichols. Pic: AP
RowVaughn Wells, mother of Tyre Nichols. Pic: AP

Ms Wells and Mr Nichols’ stepfather also repeated their call for people to protest in a non-violent way.

Mr Nichol’s mother earlier said in the same interview: “Tyre was a beautiful person, he was full of life, as you can see he loved to skateboard, he loved to watch the sunsets. He was a great dad.

“He was just a good person. There’s no perfect person in this world, but he was close to it.”

Tyre Nichols
Tyre Nichols called out for his mother several times as he was being beaten

Ms Wells has spoken after Memphis Police announced the Scorpion unit – an acronym for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighbourhoods – has been “permanently deactivated”. The five officers charged with the murder of Mr Nichols were members of the unit.

Memphis Police said in a statement: “In the process of listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community leaders, and the uninvolved officers who have done quality work in their assignments, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit.

“The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step.

“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonour on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”

The move comes after Memphis Police released bodycam footage showing Mr Nichols screaming for his mother while being beaten by officers.

The footage shows police attacked the 29-year-old for three minutes while shouting profanities at him.

Mr Nichols, a father of one, was 80 yards (73 metres) from his family home, according to his mother.

Police have released four separate videos cut into one hour-long clip, including police bodycam footage and footage from a CCTV camera.

Five officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes, including assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression over Mr Nichols’ death.

An officer beats Tyre Nichols with his baton.
An officer beats Tyre Nichols with his baton

In the footage of the attack, one camera shows the initial police stop at an intersection in Memphis, Tennessee.

“I’m going to baton the f*** out of you,” one officer can be heard saying. His body camera shows him raise his baton while at least one other officer holds Mr Nichols.

After the first officer roughly pulls Mr Nichols out of his car just after 8:20pm on 7 January this year, the FedEx worker can be heard saying “I didn’t do anything” as a group of officers begins to wrestle him to the ground.

“Get on the ground!,” one officer yells, as another is heard shouting: “Tase him! Tase him!”

The father-of-one calmly replied soon after being wrestled to the pavement: “OK, I’m on the ground.”

Police hold a taser to the leg of their suspect
Police hold a taser to the leg of their suspect

Moments later, as the officers continue to shout, Mr Nichols says: “Man, I am on the ground.”

An officer yells: “Put your hands behind your back before I break your (expletive).”

Moments later an officer shouts: “Put your hands behind your back before I break them.”

“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Mr Nichols says loudly to the officers. “I’m just trying to go home.”

“Stop, I’m not doing anything,” he yells moments later.

Read more:
What is Scorpion, the police unit at the centre of Tyre Nichols’ death?
Timeline of violent arrest
Arrest video is sickening indictment of policing that night

The camera is briefly obscured and then Mr Nichols can be seen running as an officer fires a Taser at him. The officers then start chasing Mr Nichols.

He is then punched, kicked and hit with a baton. After the beating, officers mill about for several minutes while Mr Nichols lies propped up against the car, then slumps onto the street.

Tyre Nichols is seen trying to flee as a taser is pointed at him.
Tyre Nichols is seen trying to flee as a Taser is pointed at him

Emergency workers with what looks like medical equipment attend, but do not immediately intervene.

He died on 10 January, three days after the violent arrest.

The officers involved have been dismissed by Memphis Police Department’s Chief of Police, Cerelyn Davis.

Ms Davis, who became the force’s first black female boss in 2021, previously called for “sweeping changes and police reform” in the aftermath of the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In Tyre Nichols, people are perhaps seeing an everyday man who encountered an everyday problem

It is now known as the Tyre Nichols memorial site.

Google Maps had this street south-east of Memphis as Castlegate Lane before the video release of Tyre’s fatal beating.

The day after, it was given a sat-nav rebrand.

Navigate there now and you find the Google app has refreshed to incorporate recent, horrific history – and to pay its respects to a Memphis man lost to police brutality.

Teddy bears and flowers lie in tribute to Mr Nichols on a street now returned to suburban calm, except for occasional “drive-by” journalists in a place that will always be news.

Their weekend focus shifted to the city centre, specifically the building that bears the slogan: “Join the Best in Blue” – a Memphis misnomer for the demonstrators who gathered outside the headquarters of its police headquarters late on Saturday afternoon.

“Amen” was the shout as they learned of the disbandment of SCORPION, the police unit implicated in the murder of Tyre Nichols.

A trumpeter played the tune to “We Shall Overcome”, and the mood of the crowd felt like victory.

It’s how they see it, in some measure. They feel momentum in the move for change in US police culture, but they have felt it before – before Tyre Nichols was killed.

Change, they know, is a long game. Members of this gathered crowd showed up to sustain it.

Parents, white and black, told us it was their fight on behalf of their children. A struggle for nothing less than their safety.

Indeed, a striking aspect spanning two days of peaceful demonstration here has been the presence of families in numbers higher than you’d typically see on this subject matter.

They have turned out here, young and old, to protest on Interstate 55 on Friday night and in the city centre on Saturday.

In the story of Tyre Nichols – father, Fedex worker, skateboarder, photographer – perhaps they see an everyday man who encountered an everyday problem affecting everyone. Still.

Meanwhile, influential civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton said the US has a “new clock” on police accountability following the quick arrest and firing of five officers charged over the death of Mr Nichols.

Speaking at a rally in Harlem, New York, Reverend Sharpton also rejected the idea that there was no race element to the fatal beating of Mr Nichols by the officers just because they themselves are black.

Making a speech at a weekly National Action Network rally, he said: “So there’s a new precedent set now ‘cos this black women police chief messed you up now – ‘cos she said I’m not waiting on nothing – arrest them, fire them.

“You now got a new clock on police accountability. We don’t want to hear no year investigation.”

Clockwise from top left: Officers Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean and Desmond Mills Jr have been sacked. Pic: Shelby County Sheriff's Office
Clockwise from top left: Police officers Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean and Desmond Mills Jr have been charged with murder. Pic: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office

Addressing the involvement of race, he said: “One person said to me well at least it ain’t about race.

“I said the race part of it is those black guys thought they could get away with doing it to a black guy.

“You know you couldn’t get away with doing that in Tennessee to a white guy – and you won’t get away with doing it to a black guy either.”

Meanwhile, at a news conference of city leaders held on Saturday, state representative Joe Towns Jr, echoed the comments of Reverend Sharpton on the force’s prompt investigation.

He also said police chief Davis had his full support, praising her for taking “swift action”.

The comments came as a memorial fund set up in the aftermath of Mr Nichols topped $535,000 (£433,000).

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‘They killed a man who looked like me’

The GoFundMe page, set up by Mr Nichols’ mother, is aimed at helping to pay for a memorial skate park in his honour, as well as to allow his family time off from their jobs to grieve and seek justice.

Protests are taking place in at least nine cities across the US – including Memphis – after the bodycam footage was released.

Mr Nichols’ mother had earlier warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace saying “tearing up the streets” is “not what my son stood for”.

US President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death”.

“It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day,” he added.

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