March 28, 2023

Washington — Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the funeral of Tyre Nichols in Memphis on Wednesday, her office announced.

The funeral will be held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, where Harris will join several other senior White House officials, including Keisha Lance Bottoms, senior adviser to the president for public engagement, Mitch Landrieu, senior adviser and infrastructure implementation coordinator, and Tara Murray, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement.

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer and attorney for Nichols’ family, said Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, spoke by phone with Harris for more than 30 minutes on Tuesday about Nichols’ death.

“Tyre’s parents invited Vice President Harris to the funeral tomorrow, and were pleased that she accepted their invitation,” Crump said in a statement. “Mr. and Mrs. Wells are grateful for Vice President Harris reaching out to them during this heartbreaking time and for her sensitivity on the call.

Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris in Tallahassee, Florida, on January 22, 2023.

DON VONMOORE/AFP via Getty Images

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died on Jan. 10, three days after he was beaten by several Memphis police officers during a traffic stop. Five officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death. Two other officers were relieved of duty amid an ongoing investigation. Three fire department personnel — two EMTs and a lieutenant — who responded to the scene were also fired.

Footage of Nichols’ violent arrest was released by Memphis officials Friday evening. Before its release, President Biden spoke with Nichols’ mother and stepfather, and the president said in a statement that the video of the beating is “yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.”

In a separate statement Friday, Harris said the footage and images made public “will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.”

Taken from police body cameras and street surveillance cameras, the footage shows officers removing Nichols from a vehicle after he was pulled over for suspicion of reckless driving, followed by a struggle when Nichols breaks loose and runs away from officers. Officers are seen in the released videos repeatedly punching and kicking Nichols while he is restrained. 

Nichols’ death and the release of the footage have reignited calls at the federal level for policing reforms. Congress attempted to impose changes designed to curb police violence in 2021 in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, but the negotiations collapsed after months of discussions.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who was part of the earlier talks, is expected to introduce police reform legislation in the coming weeks, which could incorporate aspects of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, an individual familiar with his plans told CBS News.

The proposal limits qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields law enforcement and government officials from being sued for conduct on the job, prevents racial profiling and restricts the use of excessive force by police. The measure passed the Democrat-led House twice, in 2020 and 2021, but talks collapsed in the Senate. The measure faces steeper odds to passing the House now with Republicans holding the majority.

It’s also unclear whether police reform legislation could clear the Senate, where 60 votes are needed for bills to advance.

Still, Mr. Biden called on policymakers to “do everything in our power to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.”

“Real and lasting change will only come if we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again,” he said.

Harris reiterated the president’s call for action and urged Congress to “urgently” pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“To truly honor Tyre Nichols’ memory, and the memory of so many others before him, we must demand that our justice system lives up to its name,” she said Friday.

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