When Tyre Nichols’ mother remembered her son, she remembered a man who “loved sunsets” and had a passion for photography and skateboarding. She spoke during a press conference on Friday ahead of the video footage released later that afternoon showing Memphis Police fatally beating Nichols following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
Nichols, who was 29-year-old, died on Jan. 10 from his injuries.
“My son was a beautiful soul. He was a good boy,” said his mother RowVaughn Wells. “No one’s perfect but he was damn near.”
Before Nichols moved to Memphis, he lived in Sacramento. Growing up, his favorite pastime was skateboarding, which he reportedly did from the time he was 6 years old, and he was a part of a tight-knit skating community.
“He was my brother,” his childhood friend Ryan Wilson told CBS Sacramento. “He’d go on vacations with me and my family. We weren’t just skateboarders he was my filmer [too]. We’d skateboard from almost the moment I got done with school around 3:00 until the sun went down.”
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said he had recently joked that his stepson was too old to skateboard. “You’ve got to put that skateboard down. You’ve got a full-time job now,” he recalled. “He looked at me like ‘Yeah right’ because that was his passion.”
Several friends close to Nichols remembered him as a “free spirit,” a father, and a man who was looking to make a new life in Memphis, Tennessee.
“He was his own person and didn’t care if he didn’t fit into what a traditional Black man was supposed to be in California,” his longtime friend Angelina Paxton told the Memphis newspaper the Commercial Appeal. “He had such a free spirit and skating gave him his wings.”
A video of Nichols from 2010 went viral on Friday and shows clips of him skateboarding with the sun beaming behind him as he 360 flips and links multiple tricks together. The video was shared during the news conference by his family’s lawyer, Ben Crump.
Prior to the police footage release, Maisha Perkins shared the clip of Nichols skateboarding, writing that she wanted “to amplify THIS video of Tyre LIVING his best life.” The video has been viewed 2.6 million times as of Friday night.
“There’s so many people that can speak on his behalf and really tell you what kind of a person he was,” Ryan told CBS when remembering Nichols. “And we all loved him so so so much.”