Tyre Nichols on video
Tyre Nichols on video

The death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Memphis father who was beaten by law enforcement and died three days later, became another harsh reality for many in Houston’s Black communities.

The City of Memphis on Jan. 27 released body camera footage showing five police officers violently beating in Nichols for three minutes.

Attorneys for the Nichols family described the beating in a press conference this month that the he had been treated like a “human pinata.”

Often times, Black people are taught at home or through personal experiences what to do when they are encountered by law enforcement. The deaths of Sandra Bland, Daunte Wright and George Floyd, are just a few examples among many others.

There is no doubt that the news opened up old wounds for many, both nationally and locally.

Following the public viewing of the fatal video, the Defender asked people in the Greater Houston area what their thoughts were about reliving this experience. This is what you all had to say.

Genevieve Angelique Bien-Aime, Project Management Professional

Genevieve Angelique Bien-Amie

It was the morning after the 2015 police shooting death of Alton Sterling. I woke up that morning and hopped on social media and it was the first video on my feed. Without any warning, I unknowingly watched Alton Sterling’s life senselessly cut down at the hands of police. I was shaken to my core and visibly upset, but considering it was a regular weekday I still had to go to work.

I remember before the start of our weekly staff meeting the topic of the day amongst my mostly white coworkers surrounded the excitement over the Red Sox’s spring training. A Black co-worker and I made eye contact and just shook our heads in dismay. The complete contrast between our two worlds and our co-workers’ obliviousness to our pain was jarring. While I couldn’t change that, I did vow that day I would never watch another video of police brutality on another Black person.

Somehow, I managed to do that. But fast forward to 2023, and I watched the Tyre Nichols video when it dropped last Friday. I couldn’t avoid it if I tried. I admittedly only watched a few highlighted portions and my heart broke for him.

I cried because he resembles my younger brother and I thought this could easily be him. I can’t imagine how confused and afraid Tyre must have been. I’m saddened for his family and especially for his mother. And if I’m being honest, I hate the online comments commending her for her strength in the face of this tragedy. I hate that for her; literally the strong Black women trope playing out again in real life.

Furthermore, I am disgusted with the actions of these police officers (and I use the term loosely). How could what we have been told was a traffic stop end this way? Why didn’t anybody step up and say enough while it was happening? In the aftermath, why did not one person render Tyre aid? Where were these people’s humanity?

The way they savagely beat Tyre and stood around giving a play-by-play told me all I needed to know. This was not the first time they did this. This is what unchecked power, lack of training and the utter disregard for Black life looks like. And to make matters worse, they were Black too.

For the longest, the issue around police brutality has been often discussed through a lens of race, so I’m interested to see how this shifts the conversation around police brutality. It’s clear to me that this issue, while influenced by race, is bigger than that and what we have (and have had) is a human rights issue on our hands. And if you’re not upset then you’re not paying attention.

Debo Folorunsho

Debo Folorunsho, Founder, SAiD Institute

As an African organization, we are standing up for the right to live free from fear of policing that does not value lives. We need to stand up and exercise our rights of free speech and assembly to demand justice for Tyre Nichols. The brutal beating against Tyre was motivated by hate and bigotry. Institutionalized police culture of using excessive force against people must stop and the police should see all humans as human beings first before they see them as criminals.

Joyce Miranda

It’s extremely heartbreaking. Never would I have imagined our own doing that to our own.

Sherrie Stepp

My heart sank and then was in my throat …the rage that shuttered through my body was indescribable. How can you call yourself a protector when the fact that aide was not administered…God is gonna deal with all of that. God’s grace is strong with his mother.

Kathy Davis Schroeder

This is criminal.! Not the work of good officers! These were thugs who killed Tyre! I support the thin Blue line, but these five were just plain murderers. Period. People like them give hard-working decent officers a bad name. I have cried over his senseless death until I am out of tears. I pray for his poor mother, and the rest of his family. This has got to stop! These five men have disgraced their own families, as well as our nation. Tyre Nichols should be home and alive, not another statistic. I pray that as the country mourns this tragedy, it unites to stop this senseless loss of life. Those responsible should get the maximum penalty for their death.

Roslyn Jean

I watched it & got goosebumps all over. My heart was piercing through so bad I could hardly breathe. This is so inhumane. Those garbage (cops) all five need to be burn in the electric chair right now. The paramedics and firefighters need to be charged also. How are you to be so brutal with a person whose hands are cuffed behind their back. Supervisor or no supervisor on the scene won’t do any good because they all think they are above the law, and no one is above the law. We are all public servants. There was no respect or concern for Tyre’s life.

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...