Tire Nichols was a ‘good boy’ who enjoyed skateboarding, photography and sunsets, his family says | CNN



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Tire Nichols was a father, a man who loved his mom, and a free-spirited soul looking for a new life in Memphis, Tennessee.

That life was tragically cut short earlier this month after a violent arrest by five Memphis police officers.

Now, as attention turns to possible charges against the officers involved, Nichols’ family wants the world to know who Nichols was.

The 29-year-old was the baby of his family, the youngest of four children. He was a “good boy” who spent Sundays doing laundry and getting ready for the week, said his mother, Ravaughn Wells.

“Does that sound like someone the police said did all these bad things?” Wells said. “No one is perfect, that’s fine, but he was very close.”

“I know everyone says they had a good son, and everyone’s son is good, but my son, he was actually a good boy,” she said.

Above all else, Nichols loved being a father and loved his son, his family said.

“All he was trying to do was get better as a father to his 4-year-old son,” attorney Benjamin Crump said at the family’s news conference.

Nichols was someone who brought joy to everyone. “When he walks in the door, he wants to give you a hug.” crump saidspeaking on behalf of the Nichols family.

Nichols moved to Memphis just before the covid-19 pandemic and was stuck there when things shut down, his mother said. “But he was fine with it because he loved his mother,” she added.

Her mother said she loved her “to death” so much that she dyed it permanently.

“He had my name tattooed on his arm, and that made me proud because most kids don’t put their mom’s name on it, but he does,” Wells said with a laugh.

“My son was a beautiful soul and he touched everyone,” she said.

Nichols befriended an unlikely group of people because they kept showing up at the same Starbucks at the same time each morning, his friend Nate Spates Jr. said.

A couple of times a week, these five or six friends would sit together, put their phones away so they could be present and enjoy each other’s company, said Spates, who met Nichols about a year ago at a Starbucks in Germantown, Tennessee. .

The group didn’t talk much about their personal lives and never touched on politics. But sports, particularly football, and Nichols’ favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, were regular topics.

Nichols was a “free-spirited person, a gentleman who marched to the beat of his own drum,” Spates told CNN. “He liked what he liked. If you liked what he liked, that’s fine. If you didn’t, he’s fine.”

Spates said he saw himself in Nichols and recognized a young man who was trying to find his own way and learning to believe in himself.

He watched Nichols grow up and begin to believe that he could do anything “he set his mind to doing in this world,” Spates said.

Spates’ favorite memory of Ty, as he called Nichols, was last year at Spates’ birthday, when Nichols met Spates’ wife and 3-year-old boy at his regular Starbucks. He watched Nichols play with his youngest son and talk kindly to his wife.

“When we left, my wife said, ‘I really like your soul. She has such good spirit,’” Spates said.

“Talking about someone’s soul is very profound,” he said. I will never forget when she said that. I will always remember that about him.”

Tire Nichols loved his mother so much that he tattooed her name on himself.

Spates joins the rest of the Nichols family and the broader Memphis community in their frustration at the lack of information about the traffic stop that resulted in Nichols’ death. He said that he has had to compartmentalize a lot to be able to even talk about his friend.

“I just hope this really opens up an honest dialogue, and not a dialogue until the next one happens, but a dialogue for change,” he said.

Nichols’ daily life was ordinary at times, as she worked and spent time with family, but also made time for her passions, her mother, Wells, said.

After her Starbucks sessions, she would come home and take a nap before going to work, said Wells, with whom she lived. Nichols worked second shift at FedEx, where he had been employed for about nine months, he said.

He came home during his lunch break with his mom, who would cook dinner.

Nichols loved her mother’s homemade chicken, made with sesame seeds, just the way she liked it, Wells said.

When he wasn’t working, Nichols would head to Shelby Farms Park to skateboard, something he had been doing since he was 6 years old. She would wake up on Saturdays to go skating or sometimes go to the park to enjoy the sunset and take pictures of it, her mother said.

“My son wanted to go watch the sunset every night, that was his passion.”

Photography was a form of self-expression that writing could never capture for Nichols, who wrote that it helped him look at “the world in a more creative way” on his photography website.

While he took everything from sports action shots to bodies of water, landscape photography was his favorite, he wrote.

“I hope one day to let people see what I see and hopefully admire my work based on the quality and ideals of my work,” he wrote. He signed the post: “His friend of his,-Tire D. Nichols.”

Skaters skate in front of City Hall in memory of Nichols.

Skating was another way Nichols showed the world his personality. A video montage of Nichols on YouTube shows his face up close to him with the sun shining behind him before riding his skateboard up and down a ramp. He grinds the railing and does tricks on his board in the video, which was shown at a news conference by his family’s attorney, Crump.

Sunsets, skateboarding and his positive nature were all things Nichols was known for, his friend Angelina Paxton told The Commercial Appeal, a local newspaper.

Skating was a big part of his life in Sacramento, California, where he lived before moving to Memphis, Paxton said.

“He was an independent person and he didn’t care if he didn’t fit into what a traditional black man in California was supposed to be. He had such a free spirit and skating gave him wings,” Paxton said.

Paxton and Nichols met when they were 11 and attending a youth group, she told the Campaign.

“Tyre was someone who knew everyone, and everyone had a positive image of him because that’s who he was,” Paxton said. “Every church knew him; all the youth groups knew him.”

When Paxton found out about Nichols’ death, he broke down, he told CNN affiliate WMC.

“My knees gave way,” he told WMC. “I just fell for it because I couldn’t believe someone with such light would be eliminated in such a dark way.”

Paxton attended Nichols’ funeral earlier this month in Memphis. She said that she represented the people in California who knew him and wanted to support his family.

“There would be a couple thousand people in this room,” Paxton told WMC, had the memorial been in Sacramento. “He was such an innocent person. He was a light. He could have been any of us.”

For his family, seeing the turnout and feeling the outpouring of support meant a lot.

Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told WMC: “My son is a community person, so it was good to see this (monument).”

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