Tyre Nichols’s mother says ‘I feel sorry’ for officers charged with son’s murder
Tyre Nichols’s mother says she feels sorry for the five Memphis police officers who are charged with killing her son by beating him “to a pulp”, but says they brought “shame on their own families and the Black community”.
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RowVaughn Wells was speaking in an emotional live interview on CNN on Friday morning one day after the officers, who are all Black, were charged with murder in the beating death of her son following a traffic stop in the city earlier this month.
“People don’t know what those five police officers did to our family. And they really don’t know what they did to their own families. They have put their own families in harm’s way,” she said.
“They have brought shame to their own families. They brought shame to the Black community. I just feel sorry for them. I really do. Because they didn’t have to do this.”
Wells spoke of seeing her 29-year-old son, whom she said was “my baby, a momma’s boy”, in the hospital after the beating, which was captured on a “horrific” video set to be released publicly on Friday evening.
“They had beat him to a pulp. He had bruises all over,” she said.
“His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck was busting because of the swelling. They broke his neck. His nose was like an S. They actually just beat the crap out of him, so when I saw him, I knew my son was gone. Even if he did live he would have been a vegetable.”
Wells said she hadn’t been able to bring herself to watch the video, which she said she’d been told was “horrific”.
“The humanity of it all. Where was the humanity? They beat my son like a piñata,” she said.
Breaking down in tears, she said she could not understand why the officers acted so violently to her son, who was not armed – a level of aggression that the Memphis police chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, conceded to CNN was “unexplainable”.
“He had Crohn’s disease, he had surgery in 2013. My son weighed a buck fifty [150lb], he was 6ft 3in,” Wells said.
“And those men, if you combine their weights, it was over a thousand pounds beating and beating a 150ld person to death. Because that’s what they did, they beat my son to death.
“He cried out for me, because I’m his mother, and that’s what he was trying to [do], get home to safety.”
On Thursday, the officers were charged with second-degree murder. Wells said they were “good charges” despite initially calling for murder charges in the first degree.
“Those are the charges that I feel will stick, so I’m happy with the charges that the district attorney has set forth. I want to say thank you to the district attorney because he’s working very hard on this … as well as the chief of police.”
That the officers are Black, she said, was irrelevant to their conduct, but was still consequential.
“We don’t care what color the officer is, there are good officers and bad officers, and we want bad officers taken off the boards,” she said.
“But by them being Black, it hurt the Black community.”
The swiftness of the officers’ firing, and subsequent charging, was commended as “a blueprint for America” by the family’s attorney Ben Crump, who appeared on CNN alongside Wells and her husband, Nichols’s stepfather Rodney Wells.
Citing other killings of young Black men and youth, including Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Philando Castile, Crump said: “Think how these cases took so long for them to charge. Here in Memphis, we have the blueprint, that it can be done swiftly and efficiently.
“Now when it’s not Black officers we want to see this same type of justice.”
Wells said she wanted people to know who her son was.
“I don’t have my baby. I’ll never have my baby again. But I do know that he was a good person and that all the good in Tyre will come out. He was a beautiful soul and touched a lot of people,” she said.
“I just feel like my son was sent here on assignment from God, and his assignment is over and he was sent back home. God is not gonna let any of his children’s names go in vain. When this is all over, it’s gonna be so good, so positive because my son was a good and positive person. That’s what keeps me going.”
At a press conference in Memphis later on Friday, Wells urged parents not to let their children watch the video of her son’s beating.
To the police who’ve been charged, she said: “I’m going to pray for you and your families.” She added: “I have a lot of words that I want to say but they will not come out, I haven’t had time to grieve. My son was supposed to be here today, no mother should lose their child in the violent way that I lost my child.”