In early January, Christina Chacon was startled awake when her husband called to tell her that Tire Nichols was in the hospital.
It was then that she discovered that her silly, optimistic and fun-loving confidant was in critical condition after his arrest by the police in Memphis, Tennessee. He later died of his injuries.
Since then it has been like a bad dream for her and her husband, who knew and lived together for years.
“We would talk about the BLM movement and how many cops are on power marches and use excessive force over and over again. Killing innocent lives, especially young black men,” 30-year-old Chacon told The Daily Beast in an interview. “I never thought he would be one of them. And I never thought it would be five black cops.
Nichols, said Kristopher Volker, Chacon’s husband, had even talked about becoming a cop.
“Recently he had the idea, I think… maybe he wants to be a police officer so he can make that change,” said Volker, 30, adding: “He wanted to join the force so he could do something else.”
Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, just a few months before his much-anticipated 30th birthday after spending several days in hospital.
That day they lost their best friend, both Chacon and her husband told The Beast.
On the night of January 7, Nichols was driving home when he was pulled over and arrested by Memphis police officers. While details are still scarce, he was immediately hospitalized after the encounter.
Originally, police only alluded to two “showdowns” with Nichols after he was pulled over at a traffic stop. Police reports also showed that Nichols ran away from officers.
But in the days since, five police officers involved in the arrest have been fired for using excessive force, and two firefighters were released following an undisclosed internal investigation into the events leading up to Nichols’ death.
Gruesome details have also emerged from family viewing video of the arrest – which they likened to the beating of Rodney King – and preliminary independent autopsy results revealed that Nichols had suffered “extensive bleeding brought on by a severe beating”, family lawyers said. .
Every gruesome detail that emerges builds anticipation for the release of a police video that will show what really happened to a man who, according to his mother RowVaughn Wells’ account, was “damn almost” perfect.
“I just had a really bad feeling from the start and we were all so confused. Like a confrontation with the police? Chacon told The Daily Beast, wondering why her friend would have run away in the first place. “It just didn’t seem to fit Tire.”
“I want people to see him as the person he was, not just a victim,” Volker said. “And that’s what I hope everyone gets out of this: meeting the real Tire, the beautiful soul who saw the good in everyone and wanted change for his community.”
By all accounts, the couple knew him well.
Nichols had been best friends with Chacon’s husband, Volker, since they were children – and had become something of a brother when Nichols moved in with Volker’s family as a teenager. Since then they have become inseparable, according to Volker, who previously described his own friendship with the man to the Memphis newspaper Commercial profession.
According to Chacon, Nichols had attended every birthday party, every big event since she herself met him six years ago. They had lived together and even moved to Tennessee together from their hometown of Sacramento, California.
“When me and my husband got married, he was the best man and everything,” she said. “And I think he ended up paying for our hotel room that night.”
While Chacon initially thought of Nichols as more of an annoying younger brother, they soon became close. She fondly remembered how Nichols would blast eclectic music and dance while he cleaned in the mornings—often for Backstreet Boys, rock artists, and, since moving to Memphis, country music.
He also often danced to those songs on TikTok, where he also shared jokes and videos of sunsets, and reposted videos protesting the death of George Floyd and racist police action.
Nichols even wrote “DO NOT QUIET” in all caps under a video he reposted of a man comforting a young boy of color as he cried, saying, “I could die by the color of my skin.”
The pair also recalled a time when Tire put on a pink wig in their backyard and took on the role of a character named “Tyreka” for fun.
In recent years, Chacon was struck by Nichols’ insights as they smoked and talked about life together. And Volker recalled that Nichols had hoped to work in Memphis long enough to move into his own apartment and “get his son back.”
When the trio decided to move to Tennessee, Chacon recalled being concerned about Trump’s politics and “there was a lot of hate going around and it might be a pain to live in a red state.”
But, she said, Nichols himself understood that he was in danger wherever he went.
“I think he just had this idea that maybe it will happen wherever he is, because he’s just — he’s just a black guy.” So I think maybe he just accepted that he might encounter social injustice.
Since his death, Volker and Chacon have been planning to get tattoos to commemorate their fallen friend.
Chacon himself already has one tattoo based on a drawing Nichols made of a dream catcher.
“I’ll never be the same without him,” she said.