The Dallas Morning News
Mom, police chief on opposite sides of Memphis tragedy
Two women were left waiting for answers after man’s beating
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tyre Nichols’ mother was just steps away from her son but couldn’t hear his anguished cries.
Beaten and broken, struggling to survive, Nichols had called out for her as five Memphis Police Department officers punched him, kicked him and hit him with a baton after a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
Nichols, 29, who lived with his mom and stepdad, had slipped from the grasp of police after he was pulled over, dragged from his car and hit with a stun gun. Caught minwells utes later near their home and beaten savagely by five officers, he screamed, “Mom! Mom!”
Moments later, the police knocked on the mother’s door, but not to alert Rowvaughn that her child had been savagely beaten, according to Rodney Wells, her husband and Nichols’ stepfather. They said Nichols had been arrested for driving under the influence and was being taken to the hospital. Police said they could not go to the hospital because their son was under arrest.
So they waited. Memphis Police Director Cereyln “CJ” Davis, a mother herself, didn’t find out what her officers had done to Nichols until later either. The lack of police supervisors on the scene would be noted by many after Nichols died Jan. 10.
The fact that no one felt compelled to fill her in until the following day raised questions about the culture of her department she would have to answer in the coming days, even as she was asking them herself.
It was around 4 a.m. when Rowvaughn Wells received a call from a doctor at the hospital where Nichols had been taken, Rodney Wells said.
While Rowvaughn Wells was seeing her son’s battered body for the first time, Davis’ police department was swinging into damage control.
The coming hours and days in Memphis would set the tone for America’s latest reckoning over police brutality, with Rowvaughn Wells and Cerelyn Davis on opposite sides of the same tragedy. Their lives would be altered, in dramatically different ways.
Wells and her family seethed, cried and mourned for Tyre Nichols, the happy-golucky skateboarder and amateur photographer who came to Memphis from California about a year ago.
Davis, the first Black woman to run the Memphis Police
Department, faced heavy criticism. She would be called out in vivid terms at Nichols’ funeral as a beneficiary of the progress that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis to fight for when he was shot to death more than half a century earlier.
In a statement released Jan. 25, Davis said she had met with the Nichols family and offered her condolences. She promised to continue investigating officers’ actions.
“I am a mother, I am a caring human being, who wants the best for all of us,” Davis said. “This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity.”
Rodney Wells said his wife thought Davis was doing an “excellent” job.