- Five Memphis Police Department officers have been charged in the death of Tyre Nichols.
- In anticipation of the release of bodycam footage, his skating videos were circulated online.
- His mother also remembered him as a skater in a public crowdfunding post.
Tyre Nichols was a gentle skateboarder who loved his family and photography. And his friends, family, and activists protesting his death want to remember him that way.
A video compilation of the 29-year-old grinding rails and catching air in Sacramento, California is being shared across social media to commemorate the life of Nichols, who died after five Memphis Police Department officers beat, pepper-sprayed, and tased him in Memphis, Tennessee on January 7 following a traffic stop.
Camara Williams, a podcaster, attorney, and community organizer who advocates for abolishing the police, tweeted the video on Friday, telling Insider the video showed “he was a person who lived in life and lived in joy.”
—The Uncultured Black (@camarawilliams) January 27, 2023
The video of Nichols enjoying simple moments of “Black joy” was something Williams said every Black person can relate to.
“I saw that and I was like, ‘wow, this is something that we’ve all had,'” Williams said. “We’ve had moments where we enjoyed the sunset, or where we were doing something that made us happy, whether it’s cutting some wood or gardening or doing something that may be unremarkable in the greater scheme of life, but it was remarkable in that it gave us peace. I felt like that is that was such a beautiful thing to capture and share.”
Williams compared the situation to his own life, telling Insider he had been harmed by bullies in the past, but knew it would be a disservice to him if people only remembered his life by his “worst moment.” Williams said he felt the same way about Nichols’ life.
“If the worst moment in your life was the only thing people remembered you by, that would be sad,” Williams said.
In a crowdfunding message, Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells also referenced his life as a skater and described him as “quirky and true to himself.”
“Tyre Nichols was loved by his community and was known to be gentle, kind, and joyful,” Wells wrote. “He loved skating and was originally from the Bay Area in California. He was known as someone ‘you know when he comes through the door he wants to give you a hug’ and that ‘he wouldn’t hurt a fly.'”
Earlier on Friday, Wells encouraged parents not to show the body camera footage of her son being beaten to their children.
One of Nichols’ close childhood friends, Angelina Paxton, told The New York Times that when he was in Sacramento, Nichols used skateboarding as an outlet when dealing with his father’s illness and distance from his mother.
“He was going through a lot,” Paxton said. “When he skated, it’s like he wasn’t worried anymore. It was like nothing mattered more than when he landed that trick, you know?”
According to family members, Nichols was a father to a 4-year-old son and loved his mom so much he got a tattoo of her name.
Another friend, Nate Spates Jr., who met Nichols at a Starbucks in Tennessee described him as a “free-spirited person, a gentleman who marched to the beat of his own drum” to CNN.
He was also a self-described aspiring photographer, according to his photography website, which is filled with images of vibrant sunsets over a lake, verdant hills, and slices of life from the city of Memphis. The Associated Press reported that before his untimely death, he was returning home from taking photos of the sky.
“My name is Tyre D. Nichols. I am an aspiring photographer,” Nichols wrote on the site. “Well I mostly do this stuff for fun but i enjoy it very much. Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways i cannot write down for people.”