In early January, Christina Chacon was jolted from her sleep when her husband called to tell her that Tyre Nichols was in the hospital.
It was then she found out that her silly, optimistic, and joyous confidant was in critical condition after his arrest by cops in Memphis, Tennessee. He later died from his injuries.
Since then, it’s been like a bad dream for her and her husband, who knew and lived with the man for years.
“We would talk about the BLM movement and how a lot of cops are on power trips and use excess force over and over again. Killing innocent lives especially young Black males,” Chacon, 30, told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “I never thought he would be one of them. And I never thought it would be 5 Black cops.”
Nichols, Chacon’s husband Kristopher Volker said, even had talked about becoming a cop.
“Recently he had the idea, I guess…. that he might want to be a police officer just so he can make that change,” said Volker, 30, adding: “ he wanted to join the police force so he could do something different.”
Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, just a few months short of his long awaited 30th birthday after several days in the hospital.
That day they lost their best friend, both Chacon and her husband told The Beast.
On the night of Jan. 7, Nichols was driving home when he was pulled over and arrested by Memphis Police officers. While details are still few and far between of the events which led to his death, he was immediately hospitalized following the encounter.
Originally, police only alluded to two confrontations with Nichols after he was pulled over at a traffic stop. Police reports also reflected that Nichols ran from officers.
But in the days since, five police officers involved in the arrest have been fired for excessive force, and two fire department staffers were relieved of duty following a yet-unreleased internal investigation into the events leading up to Nichols’ death.
Horrific details have also emerged from family that watched video of the arrest—which they likened to the beating of Rodney King—and preliminary independent autopsy results found that Nichols had “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to lawyers for the family.
Each gruesome detail that emerges builds anticipation for the release of police video which will show what really happened to a man that, by his mother RowVaughn Wells’ account, was “damn near” 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, questioning why her friend would have run in the first place. “It just didn’t seem just didn’t fit Tyre.”
“I want people to see him as the human being he was, not just another victim,” said Volker. “And that’s what I hope everybody gets out of this: to meet the real Tyre, the beautiful soul who saw good in everybody and wanted change for his community.”
By all accounts, the couple knew him well.
Nichols had been best friends with Chacon’s husband, Kristopher Volker, since they were children — and had become something of a brother when Nichols moved in with Volker’s family as a teen. Since, they became inseparable, said Volker.
According to Chacon, Nichols had been present for every birthday party, every major 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 all that,” she said. “And I think he ended up paying for our hotel room that night.”
While at first Chacon thought of Nichols as more of an annoying younger brother, soon they became close. She recalled fondly how Nichols would blast eclectic music and dance as he cleaned in the morning—often to Backstreet Boys, rock artists, and, since his move to Memphis, country music.
He would often dance to those songs on TikTok as well, where he also shared jokes and videos of sunsets, as well as reposting videos which protested George Floyd’s death and racist policing.
Nichols even wrote “DO NOT SILENCE” in capital letters under a video he reposted of a man comforting a young boy of color as he cried and said “I could die from the color of my skin.”
The couple also recalled a time where Tyre put on a pink wig in their backyard and assumed the role of a character named “Tyreka” for a laugh.
In recent years, Chacon was struck by Nichols’ insights when they would smoke together and talk about life. And Volker recalled that in Memphis, Nichols had hoped to work for long enough that he could move into his own apartment and “get his son back.”
When the trio decided to move to Tennessee, Chacon remembered worrying about Trump’s politics and “that a lot of hate was going around and that might be tricky living in a red state.”
But, she said, Nichols himself understood that wherever he went, he would be at risk.
“I think he just had that understanding of like, it’s gonna maybe happen no matter where he is because he’s just he’s just a Black male. So I think he might have just accepted the fact that he might run into some social injustice.”
Since his death, Volker and Chacon plan to get tattoos to commemorate their fallen friend.
Chacon herself already has one tattoo based on a drawing that Nichols made of a dreamcatcher.
“I’ll never be the same without him,” she said.