Sac State students mourn and react to loss of Tyre Nichols

Community members call for systematic change


Alyssa Branum

Mic in hand in the Sac State University Ballroom, one woman chokes back tears opening up about experiences with ongoing violence against people of color by police during the Ending the Epidemic of Racial Violence Forum Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Few attendees are seen in the crowd at the forum, set up to provide healing and discussion for those triggered by Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of Memphis police.

Eric Davis, Tobi Fakunle, and Jasleen Kaur

After Memphis police released video in late January of its officers brutally beating of Tyre Nichols, a Black, Sacramento-born man who died days later, a public outcry has swept the nation. 

In wake of the incident and Nichols’ death, Sacramento State students reacted to the harsh incident — calling for police reform, better training, and an improved recruitment process for police officers. 

Obinna Eze, a third-year electrical engineering major said the death of Nichols reminded him of the death of Rodney King, a Black man who was beaten by Los Angeles police officers in 1991. Eze said society has become desensitized to police brutality.

“As a Black man, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the full video because of how graphic and traumatic it is,” Eze said. “People don’t even bat an eye at the thought of a Black man dying from police.”

Dami Ekundare, a third-year theater arts major, said she believed the death of Nichols could have been easily avoided.

“There needs to be more training and more background checks because [police officers] are supposed to serve and protect,” Ekundare said. “Instead, they’re causing harm and there is a lack of trust in the community.”

With the death of Nichols, nationwide conversations about police reform have continued.  Jack Hamm, a 3rd-year political science major, said the footage of Nichols’ beating made him feel disturbed and uneasy. 

“I would like to see change being done with the way officers are recruited, oftentimes the lack of training plays a big factor,” he said.

As a student and a person of color, I deserve to feel safe when I’m out and about, whether through campus or just driving like Nichol was doing.

— Daniel Ricks

Daniel Ricks, A fourth year nursing major, said the entire police system needs immediate change. 

“As a student and a person of color, I deserve to feel safe when I’m out and about, whether through campus or just driving like Nichol was doing,” Ricks said. “Our policing system needs change and we need to advocate for better training as well as more empathy training for public officers.”

Sac State also hosted a public forum discussing the death of Nichols on Feb. 7., organized by the Division of Inclusive Excellence. This forum aimed to find solutions on how to dismantle systematic oppression and police brutality against people of color. 

“We must end the violence,” said President Robert Nelsen at the forum. “Having conversations is not enough, we must act. Our goal is to find solutions.”

Sacramento State Police Chief Chet Madison said during the forum he has three asks for campus police officers when dealing with the student population:

“When I arrived, I had three anchor points: protect the campus, continue to build community trust and be approachable,” said Madison. “I use those three metrics when there is a complaint.”

He said this is essential to establish trust between the students and police officers so both communities can empathize with and understand each other better.

Leah Hawkins, the communications and program specialist for DEI at Sac State, said during the forum that members from the community needed a response to the death of Tyre Nichols. 

“We want to address things for ourselves, but we also want allies,” said Hawkins. “Free speech isn’t free if it costs someone their dignity.”