An array of Sacramento residents crowded the western steps of California’s State Capitol building as they quietly observed newly-released body camera footage of the beating and arrest of 29-year-old Sacramento native Tyre Nichols.
Nichols, a father and an avid skateboarder, died Jan. 10 in Memphis, Tennessee, as a result of the injuries he sustained during the arrest.
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired… I’m sick and tired of welcoming families into a club nobody wants to be part of,” Stevante Clark said in front of the Capitol in downtown Sacramento.
Clark, who protested in 2018 following the death of his brother Stephon Clark, called for justice and accountability. Stephon Clark was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in his grandmother’s backyard.
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On Jan. 7, Nichols took photos of the sunset at a skate park in Memphis, Tennessee. On his way home, five officers in unmarked police cars pulled him over for reckless driving, according to the Los Angeles Times. A confrontation ensued, and Nichols fled.
Police caught up to Nichols near his mother’s house, where a second confrontation took place. He was handcuffed and beaten by the officers while he called for his mom and began complaining about shortness of breath.
He was then taken to a nearby hospital, where he died three days later.
While an official cause of death has yet to be released and an autopsy commissioned by the family is still in progress, Nichols’ step-father Rodney Wells told CBS-affiliate WREG-TV that Nichols died of cardiac arrest and kidney failure as a result of the beating.
Amplified by the megaphone in her hands, Leia Schenk, founder of the social justice organization EMPACT and a Sac State alumna, talked about the continuous occurrences of police violence.
“Our Black men that have been accosted by the police, they have to live in fear every day of their lives… every time they go anywhere, they have to be afraid of this,” Schenk said. “So when you wonder why Black men run, it’s because they’re afraid. They’re running for their life.”
On Jan. 20, all five police officers were arrested and charged with “second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravating kidnapping resulting in bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping involving the possession of a weapon, official misconduct through unauthorized exercise of power, official misconduct through failure to act when there is a duty imposed by law and official oppression,” according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.
Kymberlee Barlow, who said she worked with Nichols at Sunrise Mall, was shocked and said she was not mentally prepared to watch the footage.
“I have no words. I literally cannot even fathom what’s happening,” Barlow said.
A statement released by Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said they do not condone the acts shown in the body camera footage, writing that it does not reflect their values or law enforcement.
“As your sheriff, I remain steadfast in our agency’s commitment to protect all citizens’ rights, life, and liberty. While this event may certainly [evoke] strong emotions, I implore the community to channel this energy toward positive, meaningful and effective efforts. I commit to you that we will continue to build positive relationships and work collaboratively with the communities we serve,” wrote Sheriff Jim Cooper.
Moving forward, Clark called for legislative change like bail reform. The officers charged with Nichols’ death posted bail within 24 hours of being arrested. Clark said the ability for them to make bail was not fair.
“What this is saying is that these guys can get away with murder,” Clark said. “We shouldn’t be living in two different Americas. We live in one America.”
Stevante Clark speaking to a crowd of protesters as they march through the streets of downtown Sacramento Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. The protest was prompted following the release of body camera footage showing 29-year-old Tyre Nichols being beaten by Memphis police officers. Nichols died days later. (Photo by Alyssa Branum)