Tyre Nichols Loved 4-Year-Old Son, Photography and the San Francisco 49ers: ‘Free Spirit’

Tyre Nichols Loved 4-Year-Old Son, Photography and the San Francisco 49ers: 'Free Spirit'

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New details continue to emerge about what happened after Tyre Nichols, 29, was pulled over in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 7. 

Nichols died following a confrontation with police that was captured on police body cam and surveillance video. Officials have alleged the officers’ actions were extremely violent and disturbing, and all five officers present have been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

Nichols, a Black man and father who worked at FedEx, was transported to the hospital in critical condition and died three days later.

RELATED: 5 Former Police Officers Charged with Murder in Death of Tyre Nichols

As the country awaits the release of police video footage that could answer further questions about what happened to Nichols, here’s more about who Nichols was. 

Nichols was the devoted dad of a 4-year-old son

At a Friday press conference, one of the Nichols family’s lawyers, Benjamin Crump, said Tyre — who called himself “Ty” on his Facebook page — was a dedicated, loving father.

“Everything he was trying to do was to better himself as a father for his 4-year-old son,” the lawyer said. “When he comes through the door, he wants to give you a hug.”

He thought he’d be famous one day

Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told CNN her son was a “good boy,” and was the youngest of four kids. During the press conference, Wells recalled Nichols always saying he would be famous one day.

But she added grimly that she “didn’t know this is what he meant.”

Photography and skateboarding were Nichols’ passions

At the press conference, RowVaughn Wells shared that her son had loved skateboarding, and had regularly skated at Shelby Farms Park on Saturdays. He’d been skating since he was a little boy, she said.

His other passions were photography and sunsets: “My son every night wanted to go and look at the sunset,” she said.

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Nichols posted his photography work on a dedicated website, and his snaps ranged in subject from sports photos, to nature shots, to landscapes, which he described as his “favorite.”

RELATED:  Family of Man Who Died After ‘Savage’ Encounter with Memphis Police Say He Called Out for Mom During Beating

“My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” he wrote. “I hope to one day let people see what I see and to hopefully admire my work based on the quality and ideals of my work.”

RELATED:  Family of Man Who Died After ‘Savage’ Encounter with Memphis Police Say He Called Out for Mom During Beating

He moved to Memphis from Sacramento before COVID-19 hit

Wells said Nichols had relocated to Memphis from Sacramento, Calif., shortly before the pandemic began in 2020. He remained there when lockdown kept him stuck in place. “He was OK with it because he loved his mother,” she said at the news conference.

He had been working for Fed-Ex for about nine months before his death.

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Brandon Dill for The Washington Post via Getty Activists holding signs showing Tyre Nichols

RELATED: Tyre Nichols Had Extensive Bleeding, Was ‘Brutalized’ During Traffic Stop: Lawyers

Angelina Paxton, a childhood friend of Nichols’, told the Commercial Appeal that Nichols didn’t care much about societal norms.

“He was his own person and didn’t care if he didn’t fit into what a traditional Black man was supposed to be in California. He had such a free spirit and skating gave him his wings,” she told the outlet. 

He had his mother’s name tattooed on his arm

Wells said her son loved her deeply, and vice versa. He even tattooed her name on his arm to show his devotion forever.

“He had my name tattooed on his arm, and that made me proud because most kids don’t put their mom’s name, but he did,” she said.

The San Francisco 49ers were his favorite team

Nate Spates Jr., a friend of Nichols’, told CNN that the two of them — plus a small group of other friends — met up at a local Starbucks a few times per week. They would talk about sports, and Spates said the San Francisco 49ers were Nichols’ team of choice. He described Nichols to CNN as “a free-spirited person, a gentleman who marched to the beat of his own drum.” 

Spates also recalled Nichols being sweet with his wife and toddler, telling CNN, “When we left, my wife said, ‘I just really like his soul. He’s got such a good spirit.'”

The officers involved in Nichols’ traffic stop — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr. — were indicted on murder charges Thursday, as well as a slew of other charges. They have reportedly posted bond and are now out of jail.

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The body cam footage is expected to be released later this evening.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.

National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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