“We’re gathered today to reflect on the tragic brutality that led to the heartbreaking death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee,” Mayor Wheeler began. “For good reason, this horrific event has reverberated all across the country – and indeed across the world – and we’re standing here today united to denounce the actions that took his life.”
Wheeler and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell both offered their condolences to the Nichols family during the press conference, with Wheeler calling it an “unimaginable loss” and Lovell classifying the actions of the now-former Memphis officers as “shocking and unconscionable.”
Both the mayor and police chief commended the speed at which action was taken against the former officers — before pleading with the Portland community to abide by the Nichols family’s wishes.
Wheeler recognized that Portlanders will likely be voicing their concerns and grief, especially after the release of the “shocking and appalling” footage.
“I support those that wish to exercise the right to be heard and I understand their deep concerns. I also want to echo the request of Tyre Nichols’ family and urge the community to do so peacefully and in a non-violent manner,” the mayor said. “I want to be clear, this tragedy cannot be used as an invitation to cause destruction or harm to our community or those that live here.”
Wheeler called the actions of those former Memphis officers “exactly the opposite” of expectations for those entrusted with keeping the public safety, saying they do not reflect the values or training of Portland’s public safety partners.
“Those officers failed to protect their community and they failed to uphold their sworn oath to serve the community with integrity,” Wheeler said. “The reprehensible actions against Tyre were a failure of the critical duty of police officers to carry out their work with humility and humanity.”
When Chief Lovell stepped up to the podium, he echoed many of Wheeler’s sentiments and said excessive acts of force like this deeply impact all who wear a badge.
“It is heartbreaking and truly a failure of humanity,” he stated. “It angers all of us at the Portland Police Bureau to think that law enforcement officers would violate the oath we swear to protect and values we personally hold dear.”
Multnomah County Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnel issued a statement after the conclusion of the press conference in which she said the officers’ actions were “sickening… inhumane and indefensible.”
“Frankly, the death of Tyre Nichols should have never happened. These officers used excessive force, failed to intervene, and neglected to call for immediate medical attention,” she said. “I want you to know, their actions are not reflective of our values at the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and they go against our training and code of ethics, and everything we believe in.”
Morrisey O’Donnel acknowledged this tragic incident could trigger pain and anger from other events involving police officers’ excessive use of force — such as the murder of George Floyd, which spurred over a hundred nights of protests in Portland in the summer of 2020.
“We recognize people may use their individual and collective voices to express grief, outrage, and call for action,” she stated.
Lovell issued a statement earlier in the day about a “possible demonstration” beginning Friday night at the Convention Center. Police officials said they did not know if a march would take place.
“While the City of Portland and Police Bureau are firmly and consistently supportive of people exercising their free speech and assembly rights, we also underscore the call for peaceful gatherings made by Mr. Nichols’ family. We know that violence and injuries are avoidable and want safety for all Portlanders. We share this outrage, but we ask for peaceful and orderly demonstrations,” Lovell said in the statement.
He said the police will monitor events and make arrests if necessary.
“Many events in our city do not require any police presence. The city experiences a mix of planned and spontaneous events. We can’t always predict what behavior will occur and when, but we try our best to keep the community informed,” the chief said.
He also asked for the community’s help to report “any criminal activity” that is seen.
Wheeler and Lovell were joined at the press conference by the Portland City Council, NAACP Portland President James Posey and former State Senator Margaret Carter. Watch the press conference in its entirety in the video player above.
KOIN 6 News will have more information later in the night.
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