Vice President Kamala Harris will on Feb. 1 attend the funeral of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Fed Ex worker and father of a 4-year-old son who died three days after a Jan. 7 traffic-stop beating by five Memphis police officers.
The funeral will be held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.
Harris spoke to Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, stepfather Rodney Wells, and family attorney Ben Crump on Jan. 31.
In a statement, Crump said that Harris was invited to attend the funeral during the phone call.
“Vice President Harris and Ms. Wells spoke exclusively, and during this emotional time, the vice president was able to console Ms. Wells and even help her smile,” Crump said.
Tamika Taylor, whose daughter died in Louisville three years ago in a police altercation, and Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd who died after an incident with Minneapolis police officers in 2020, will also be at the funeral, the Nichols’ family confirmed.
Rev. Al Sharpton, who heads the National Action Network civil rights organization, will deliver the eulogy, a news release reported.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a senior adviser for public engagement to President Joe Biden, and Mitch Landrieu, a White House senior adviser and infrastructure implementation coordinator who also served as mayor of New Orleans, will join Harris, according to the vice president’s press secretary.
Five Memphis police officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder among other offenses following Nichols’ beating and death. Video of the altercation was released publicly last week and showed that other people did not help Nichols.
On Jan. 30, two additional Memphis police officers and three emergency responders were fired in connection with Nichols’ death.
Six of the involved officers were part of the Memphis police department’s Scorpion Unit, which was created to target violent criminals in high-crime areas.
Launched in November 2021, the unit featured three teams of around 30 officers. The name stands for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.”
The unit was created to target violent offenders in high-crime areas of Memphis. It was disbanded after Nichols’ death.
Nichols was pulled over at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 for alleged reckless driving. He attempted to flee when police approached the vehicle but was caught and beaten, the video shows.
Nichols, who died three days after the assault, was black, as are the five police officers.
A grand jury indicted the five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith— on Jan. 26. They were charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping, as well as official misconduct and official oppression.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.
“While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible,” Steven Mulroy, the district attorney for Memphis, said after the grand jury indictment.
The five officers posted bail of between $250,000 and $350,000 and were released.
More Officers Sacked
On Jan. 30, the Memphis Fire Department said in a statement that it fired three employees after the release of video footage that showed Nichols’ arrest and the immediate aftermath.
An internal review discovered that emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMicheal Sandridge “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols” after they arrived, while fire Lt. Michelle Whitaker remained in her vehicle, the statement explained.
Handcuffed on the ground and leaning against a police vehicle, Nichols was left for 14 minutes without medical attention after Long and Sandridge arrived.
Long and Sandridge called for an ambulance to respond. An emergency unit was dispatched at 8:46 p.m. and arrived on the scene at 8:55 p.m., according to the fire department noted.
The emergency unit treated Nichols and transported him to St. Francis Hospital at 9:08 p.m.
Long, Sandridge, and Whitaker “violated numerous [fire department] policies and protocols,” and as a result, the three “have been terminated,” Fire Chief Gina Sweat said.
“Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community,” Sweat added.
Ban on Chokeholds
Nichols’ death has brought back discussion about bipartisan police reform.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would establish a national registry of police misconduct to prevent officers from moving to another jurisdiction, was introduced in 2020 and again in 2021.
The proposed legislation would also ban racial profiling and religious profiling by law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels as well as change qualified immunity, which critics believe shields law enforcement officers from accountability for actions.
According to a fact sheet, the act would also “save lives by banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants” and mandate “deadly force be used only as a last resort.”
The bill was pushed through the House, which at the time was controlled by Democrats, in 2020 and 2021. It did not have the same success in the Senate, which would need 60 votes to pass the legislation.
Biden signed a limited executive order on the second anniversary of Floyd’s death. That measure mandated a ban on chokeholds, an expansion of body-worn cameras, and a restriction on no-knock warrants among other guidelines for federal officers.
The president is unable to require local law enforcement to abide by his order.
“Shame on us if we don’t use [Nichols’] tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed,” Crump said.
Biden mentioned the proposed legislation last week. The Congressional Black Caucus has requested a meeting with Biden to facilitate negotiations.
“We are calling on our colleagues in the House and Senate to jumpstart negotiations now and work with us to address the public health epidemic of police violence that disproportionately affects many of our communities,” CBC Chair Steven Horsford wrote in a statement on Jan. 29.