The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tyre Nichols loved sunsets. People are sharing glowing skies in his honor.

Rowvaughn Wells describes her son Tyre Nichols' love for sunsets. Nichols died on Jan. 10 after a violent arrest by Memphis police three days prior. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Courtesy: Jamal Dupree/The Washington Post)
2 min

In life, Tyre Nichols loved sunsets. Each evening, he would watch the sky as it changed color, often snapping photos of the view, his mother said.

In the days since his death, which came after he was brutally beaten by Memphis police officers, people across the country are sharing their images of powder-pink skies and glowing orange landscapes in his honor.

Nichols was stopped by police who said he was driving recklessly on the evening of Jan. 7. The unarmed 29-year-old was pulled from his car, then shocked, pepper-sprayed, kicked, punched and struck with a baton by five officers who have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping, among other counts. He died on Jan. 10, leaving behind a 4-year-old son.

Body-camera footage of the violent arrest was released Friday, renewing anger and protests over police brutality nationwide. Many expressed horror at the footage, which showed Nichols repeatedly calling out for his mother as he was pummeled.

Some others took to social media to urge people not to share the video, but to post images of sundown instead.

“Let’s flood this vile darkness, with Tyre’s incandescent light,” read one tweet that urged people to use the hashtag #SunsetsForTyre to share their own images. “From what I have seen Tyre Nichols liked to take pictures of sunsets. Me too. Here is one of mine to honor him and his too-short life,” read another tweet.

“My son, every night, wanted to go and look at the sunset,” Nichols’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, said at a news conference Friday, describing him as a “gentle soul” who “loved to take pictures.” Wells said Nichols would often watch the sun go down from Memphis’s Shelby Farms Park.

“Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way,” Nichols wrote on his website, titled This California Kid. “I take different types of photography, anywhere from action sports to rural photos, to bodies of water and my favorite.. landscape photography.”

Timeline: It took 22 minutes for ambulance to arrive after Nichols was beaten

A photograph taken from a plane window was accompanied by a simple message from singer Anita Baker: “A Sunset, for #TyreNichols.”

A GoFundMe page created by the Nichols family has raised almost $1 million.

“We want to build a memorial skate park for Tyre, in honor of his love for skating and sunsets,” the page says.

Victoria Bisset, Hadley Green and Robert Klemko contributed to this report.

The death of Tyre Nichols

The latest: The Justice Department is launching a review of the Memphis Police Department’s use of force policies and practices. Each of the five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty in Tyre Nichols’ death. One of the officers texted a photo of bloodied Tyre to colleagues, according to records.

What has Memphis police footage revealed?: The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has sparked a complex dialogue on institutional racism in policing. Some of the most haunting videos came from SkyCop cameras.

Who was Tyre Nichols?: The 29-year-old father was pepper-sprayed, punched and kicked by Memphis cops after a January traffic stop. He was pronounced dead at a hospital three days after his arrest. At Tyre Nichols’ funeral service, his family said they are focused on getting justice.

What is the Scorpion unit?: After the fallout from the brutal beating, Memphis police shut down the Scorpion unit.