© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

Tyre Nichols' childhood friend remembers him for his positivity

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Later this week, Tyre Nichols will be laid to rest. It's been nearly three weeks since he died in a hospital in Memphis after being brutally beaten by police.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

We now know a lot more about what happened on the night police pulled Nichols over. They said he'd been driving recklessly. Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis told CNN's Don Lemon video footage from around the city hasn't backed up that claim.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CNN THIS MORNING")

C J DAVIS: It doesn't mean that something didn't happen.

DON LEMON: That the cameras...

DAVIS: But there's no proof.

CHANG: But there is plenty of video footage that proves police beat Nichols viciously. And as it became public last Friday, Memphis and cities around the country braced for protests.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Justice for Tyre.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Justice for Tyre.

CHANG: Many were held, but they were largely peaceful.

SUMMERS: Five MPD officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. Two others have been relieved of duty, as have two county sheriff's deputies. Several Memphis Fire Department officers have also been fired.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROWVAUGHN WELLS: I do know that he was a good person and that all this - all the good in Tyre will come out.

CHANG: That is RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols' mom. She and Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, spoke with CNN Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WELLS: I always joke 'cause he'll come in the house, and he'll come in and say, hello, parents. I'll never hear that again.

SUMMERS: Austin Robert also has fond memories of Tyre Nichols. He spoke with NPR's Juliana Kim about bonding with him over their shared love for skateboarding as teenagers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JULIANA KIM, BYLINE: Tyre Nichols is 17 years old in this video. The sun is bright orange as he skates up and down a mini ramp. His childhood friend, Austin Roberts, says that's how Nichols spent most of his time as a teenager.

AUSTIN ROBERTS: He never wanted to quit. And, I mean, if you gave that guy a headlamp and it got too dark for him to land a trick, he would still try to do it.

KIM: The two met at a skateboard park in Sacramento when they were in high school. Every day for almost eight years, the two would meet up with their group of friends at Regency Park and practice skateboard tricks until it got dark. What he remembers most about Nichols is his positivity.

ROBERTS: It didn't matter, like, what was going on in his life, if - whether it was bad or good, he would still be the same person.

KIM: Robert can't recall a time when Nichols got mad or was in trouble. That's why he was shocked to hear that his friend was pulled over and brutalized by police in Memphis earlier this month. Nichols died in the hospital three days later. He was 29 years old. Five police officers have since been fired and charged with his murder.

Over the past few weeks, people across the country braced themselves for footage from the night Nichols was beaten. Officials who watched the videos describe them as heinous and inhumane. That's when Roberts' old home videos resurfaced. Attorney Ben Crump, who's representing Nichols' family, shared one of Roberts' videos on social media, saying, this is who Tyre Nichols was - a talented and dedicated skateboarder.

(SOUNDBITE OF SKATEBOARD WHEELS CLICKING)

KIM: Nichols was fascinated with skateboarding for a while before he built up the courage to ride one, according to Robert.

ROBERTS: The story he told me is that he saw people, you know, skating, and he always thought that that was something that he could never do 'cause it looked like it was so hard.

KIM: Roberts says one day Nichols tried it out, and he became committed to the sport from that day forward. He was also dedicated to everyone else's success at the skateboard rink.

ROBERTS: He would set his board down, grab the camera, and he would film for hours and just wait for you to land this trick. And he would keep you in positive vibes even if you're getting frustrated 'cause you couldn't land it.

KIM: That's what Robert hopes people will remember about Nichols.

ROBERTS: I want him to be remembered as, you know, the kid that was smiling in a skate video and not the kid that was, you know, frightened for his life.

KIM: This past Friday, the Sacramento skateboard community held a candlelight vigil at Nichols' childhood park. And his mother is raising money for a memorial skate park in his honor.

Juliana Kim, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Sarah Handel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Related Content