MEMPHIS, Tenn. – (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris plans to attend the funeral of Tire Nichols, who died three days after he was beaten by Memphis police officers just minutes from his home, the White House said Tuesday .
According to Harris’ publicist Kirsten Allen, Harris was invited to Wednesday’s memorial service by Nichols’ mother and stepfather, RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells. Harris spoke to the Wells family by phone Tuesday, offering their condolences and support. President Joe Biden spoke to Nichols’ family over the phone last week.
Harris will be joined by former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a senior presidential adviser on public engagement, and Mitch Landrieu, a senior adviser and coordinator for White House infrastructure implementation, who is a former mayor of New Orleans , Allen said.
Five black officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder and other felonies in Nichols’ January 7 beating and subsequent death. Video of the beating, released last week, shows many other people did not help Nichols, who was also black, aside from the five officers charged in his death.
Two other Memphis police officers were disciplined and three EMTs fired in connection with Nichols’ death, officials said Monday. White officer Preston Hemphill and another officer, whose name has not been released, have been suspended, police said.
Nichols’ family, Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump plan to gather Tuesday night at the historic Mason Temple in Memphis — where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech the night before he was assassinated – to update on the latest developments in the case.
Six of the officers involved belonged to the so-called Scorpion Unit, which targeted violent criminals in high-crime areas. Other Memphis residents who say they were also “brutalized” by officers from the unit will also speak at the Mason Temple, according to a statement from Crump.
Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said after the video was released that the unit was disbanded.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough due to the gravity of the situation,” Damion Carrick, 44, said while attending a protest at Shelby Farms Park Monday night. “They dragged a man out of his car, beat him senseless, turned him to a pulp and nobody did anything about it. It’s heartbreaking.”
Nichols’ death was the latest in a series of early police reports of their use of force, which were later revealed to have minimized or omitted violent and sometimes fatal encounters.
Memphis Police Department officers used a stun gun, a baton, and their fists when beating Nichols during the night’s arrest. Video shows Nichols fleeing officers to his home after being pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Video footage released on Friday shows the 29-year-old father calling for his mother and struggling with his injuries as he sits helplessly on the sidewalk.
The five officers talked for a few minutes and walked around while Nichols stayed on the ground but other authorities were at the scene. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been suspended without pay while their conduct is investigated.
Nichols’ older brother, Jamal Dupree, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday that he felt guilty for not being there to protect his younger sibling.
“I’m 99% sure my brother has never been in a fight. And the one time he got into an argument with other people, we weren’t there to protect him. My brother tried to work with them,” Dupree, who lives in California, said of the Memphis officials.
Dupree said he did not look at the police video.
“I already knew how they treat him because I’ve seen it around the world,” Dupree said. “Police brutality is nothing new. I already knew they treated my brother like an animal. They treated him like he was nothing. You don’t have to watch the video to know that.”
He said he had seen reports about his brother and thought other people would learn who he was as a person.
“I think people really know that my brother didn’t deserve this,” he told CNN. “He wasn’t that kind of person. Yes, he was just a good guy on the board. … We want justice.”
Nichols’ sister Keyana Dixon was among more than 100 friends, family and supporters who gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil at a Sacramento skate park where Nichols grew up, The Sacramento Bee reported.
“It was his favorite place to skate,” she said at the vigil. “I just want to thank you all for your continued support of our family and making sure his name is never forgotten.”
A childhood friend, Ryan Wilson, said he met Nichols at a skate park when he was 12 and they quickly became friends and shared their dreams for the future. Nichols had some struggles when he was young, but he focused on making others happy, Wilson said.
“I just feel like he just wanted to find his place in this world, and he just wanted to be happy,” Wilson said.
RowVaughn and Rodney Wells have accepted an invitation to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address at the Capitol next week. They will attend with Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to Vincent Evans, a spokesman for the caucus.
Nichols’ funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis. Sharpton will deliver the eulogy and Crump will speak immediately after the funeral. Expected attendees include Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, and Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd.
The deaths of Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police sparked protests against racial injustice across the country.
Associated Press journalist Gary Fields in Memphis; Darlene Superville in Washington; and Rebecca Reynolds of Louisville, Kentucky contributed to this report. For more information on the Tire Nichols case, visit https://apnews.com/hub/tyre-nichols.
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