Tire Nichols’ “creative soul” honored in wake of his violent death

Tire Nichols was a photographer, skater and young father who loved taking pictures of the sky. He preferred landscapes and loved the glow of sunsets the most, his family has said.

Not much is known about the private and creative life of Nicholsa 29-year-old man whose death earlier this month has led to another degree murder charges against five officers, who were fired because of the incident. Nichols died three days after what his family and authorities described as a brutal encounter which stemmed from a traffic stop. Interviews with his family, friends and colleagues have described him as a happy, creative and spiritual young man.

Tire Nichols, who died three days after sustaining injuries while being arrested by police officers, is seen in this undated photo taken from social media.
Tire Nichols, who died three days after sustaining injuries while being arrested by police officers, is seen in this undated photo taken from social media.

Facebook/Deandre Nichols/via Reuters

“Nobody’s perfect, nobody. But he was close,” his mother, RowVaughn Wells, said at a news conference this week, moments after she saw the video of her son being beaten. “He was almost perfect.”

He was the baby of their family, born 12 years after his closest sibling. He had a 4-year-old son and was working hard to be a better father, the family said.

His creative love was photography, and on his personal creative website he described himself as an “aspiring photographer”.

“Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I can’t write down for people,” he wrote on his website.

On his website he had a gallery of what he considered his “masterpieces”: bridges and railroad tracks rendered in black and white, the neon lights of Beale Street at night. He took pictures of pink flowers, sunsets over the Mississippi River, grassy fields and statues of Elvis. He pulls out a quote from another photographer: “A good photographer must love life,” it begins.

Friends at a memorial service this week described him as happy and lovable. As the youngest of four children, Nichols was close to his mother and had a tattoo of her name on his arm.

“This man walked into a room and everybody loved him,” said Angelina Paxton, a friend who traveled to Memphis from California for the service. Nichols had moved to Memphis from Sacramento, California just before the pandemic, his family said.

Nichols worked the second shift at FedEx with his stepfather. Every day they would come home together at break time at 7pm and his mother would have a meal waiting for them. Wells said she had offered to buy her son Jordans, the popular athletic shoes, but he wouldn’t have them.

Protesters are marching across the country after a video of Tyre Nichols’ death was released


“He was just his own person,” she said. “He didn’t pay attention to what anyone else was doing.”

Nichols grew up in Sacramento and spent much of his time at a skate park on the outskirts of the city.

“You remember people being really kind to you, and Tyre was just a really kind person,” said Chapman, who also skated with Nichols. “He always made me feel very welcome.”

There was a Thursday Bible study that Nichols attended with his friend Brian Jang. One day the group watched a sermon about how the world is filled with distractions. Jang said Nichols was so moved by it that he pulled out his phone and dropped it in a cup of water.

“It’s honestly quite devastating to see such a good person go through such unnecessary brutality, such an unnecessary death,” Jang said.

In Memphis, Nichols went to Starbucks every morning, and Nate Spates Jr. hung out with him there. They chatted about sports or life. Spates was with his wife once when they met Nichols there, and they all talked for a couple of hours. Afterward, Spates said his wife commented, “He has such a good spirit and soul and calm presence.”

Ben Crump’s Law

When he wasn’t working, he went to the park to skateboard and take pictures. His website, called This California Kid, starts with an invitation: “Welcome to the world through my eyes.”

In the video footage, released Friday to the public, Nichols is heard saying he just wants to go home. He was less than 100 meters from his mother’s house.

His mother still waits for him to walk in the door every day at 7pm

“It’s not even real to me right now. I have no emotions right now,” she said. “I know my son Tyr is not here with me anymore. He will never walk through that door again.”

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