Tyre Nichols death: Memphis police permanently deactivates SCORPION unit

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Police on Friday released more than an hour of video footage showing the deadly confrontation on Jan. 7 between 29-year-old Tyre Nichols and officers of the Memphis Police Department. Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after he was stopped by police near his home.

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Memphis police Chief Cerelyn Davis said five officers who “were found to be directly responsible” for Nichols’ abuse in the attack were fired. On Thursday, Tadarrius Bean, 24; Demetrius Haley, 30; Emmitt Martin III, 30; Desmond Mills, 32; and Justin Smith, 28; were booked into jail. Each was charged with one count of second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, one count of aggravated assault while acting in concert, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping in the death of Nichols, according to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

>> To see the unedited video released by the Memphis Police, click here. Warning the videos are graphic and contain profanity.

Warning: This story contains graphic details of a violent crime. Reader discretion is advised.

SCORPION unit permanently deactivated

Updated 4:50 p.m. EST Jan. 26: SCORPION, the specialized unit that the five former Memphis police officers accused in the beating death of Tyre Nichols belonged to, has been permanently deactivated, according to a news release.

The Memphis Police department said that it was in the department’s best interests to disband the unit -- Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods -- and that the other members of the group agreed “unreservedly” with the decision.

“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”

The unit was established in the fall of 2021 to deploy about 40 officers into neighborhoods to focus on “crime hot spots,” according to The New York Times.

Officers used unmarked vehicles to conduct traffic stops and seize illegal weapons. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told The Wall Street Journal that the unit, which is made up of four 10-person teams, made 566 arrests since it was established.

A total of 390 of those have been felony arrests between October 2021 and Jan. 23, 2022. In addition, the unit seized about 253 weapons.

Obama calls Nichols’ death ‘unjustified’

Update 4:20 p.m. EST Jan. 28: Former President Barack Obama weighed in on the video that was released Friday night, calling the beating of Tyre Nichols “unjustified.”

Obama called the footage “the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go in fixing how we police our streets.”

GoFundMe campaign raises more than $700K for Nichols’ family

Update 4:15 p.m. EST Jan. 28: A GoFundMe campaign started by Tyre Nichols’ mother has raised more than $700,000 as of Saturday afternoon.

The verified fundraising campaign by RowVaughn Wells was at $82,000 at about 7 p.m. EST, according to CNN. After the release of a video that showed Memphis police officers beating Nichols, the figure doubled to more than $178,000 by 10 p.m.

By 4 p.m. EST Saturday, donations stood at $701,608.

“My baby was just trying to make it home to be safe in my arms,” Wells wrote. “Tyre was unarmed, nonthreatening, and respectful to police during the entire encounter!”

Wells said that donations would go toward the cost of mental health services for herself and her husband, along with covering the time away from their jobs. She added that she wants to use some of the money to build a memorial skate park for Nichols.

Memphis Grizzlies, sports leagues tweet support to Nichols family

Update 1:34 p.m. EST Jan. 28: Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said he “cried” after watching a televised interview with the mother of Tyre Nichols, who died three days after he was beaten by Memphis police in early January.

The NBA, WNBA and several teams released statements of support for the family, along with the players’ unions, according to ESPN.

“The senseless loss of life for Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard,” Jenkins told Bally Sports, the Grizzlies’ broadcast partner, in a pregame interview before Friday’s NBA game. “It’s been tough being on the road, not being home. I wish I could extend my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot.”

The Grizzlies were playing in Minneapolis, where George Floyd, Black man, was killed in 2020. Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee on the man’s neck, an act that sparked protests worldwide over police brutality and racism, ESPN reported.

The NBA said in a statement that the images from the video were “horrifying.”

“While there have been steps toward accountability in this instance, the NBA family remains committed to partnering with advocates, policymakers and law enforcement to work toward solutions to the issues we continue to face,” the league tweeted.

The WNBA said it will “continue to be a voice for those who face discrimination, racism and injustices, and will work to effect meaningful, systemic change in our communities.”

“We are outraged,” the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said in a statement. “The police killing of Tyre Nichols marks the continuation of horrific police brutality against yet another Black man. This appalling police misconduct endangers us all and ero

On Saturday, the NFLPA said in a tweet, “This is yet another reminder that there is much work to be done in the fight against injustice in our country, and the work of our union and players to combat it must press on.”


Memphis school district postpones Saturday after-school events

Update 11:03 a.m. EST Jan. 28: Memphis-Shelby County Schools announced that the school district postponed athletic and extracurricular events scheduled for Saturday, WHBQ-TV reported.

The announcement came a day after the district decided to cancel after-school activities on Friday, hours before video was released showing the confrontation between Tyre Nichols and five former Memphis police officers.

Memphis police union condemns mistreatment

Update 10:45 a.m. EST Jan. 28: In a Facebook post, the Memphis Police Association expressed its condolences on Saturday to the family of Tyre Nichols and added that the union does not condone the mistreatment of citizens.

“The Memphis Police Association is committed to the administration of justice and NEVER condones the mistreatment of ANY citizen nor ANY abuse of power,” the organization wrote. “We have faith in the criminal justice system. That faith is what we will lean on in the coming days, weeks, and months to ensure the totality of circumstances is revealed.

“Mr. Nichols’ family, the city of Memphis, and the rest of the country deserve nothing less. We pray for justice, healing, and eventual closure for all involved.”

Attorney for former officer Desmond Mills Jr. issues statement

Update 9:22 a.m. EST Jan. 28: Blake Ballin, the attorney for former Memphis police officer Desmond Mills Jr., issued a statement after authorities released video of officers allegedly beating Tyre Nichols, saying that graphic footage has “produced as many questions as they have answers.”

“The question of whether this city would react to these videos and mourn with Tyre Nichols’s family in a peaceful way has been answered,” Ballin said, in a statement obtained by WHBQ-TV. “Some of the questions that remain will require a focus on Desmond Mills’s individual actions; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see when he arrived late to the scene; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see after he was pepper sprayed; and on whether Desmond’s actions crossed the lines that were crossed by other officers during this incident.

“We continue to urge caution and patience in judging Desmond Mills’s actions. We are confident that the questions of whether Desmond crossed the lines that others crossed and whether he committed the crimes charged will be answered with a resounding no.”

3 protesters arrested in New York City near Times Square

Update 8:56 a.m. EST Jan. 28: Three demonstrators were arrested Friday night in New York City after protesters took to the streets following the Memphis Police Department’s release of body camera video that showed officers beating Tyre Nichols.

Two protests sprung up in Manhattan, as groups in Times Square and Union Square quickly gathered, WNBC-TV reported.

Just before 9 p.m. EST, a protester jumped on a New York Police Department vehicle near Times Square and smashed the windshield, according to the television station. That person was arrested.

Another person was arrested after allegedly punching an officer, while a third was detained for an unspecified reason, WNBC reported. All of the arrests were related to the NYPD vehicle, according to the television station.

Despite the arrests, protests in New York City were mostly peaceful, CNN reported.

Protesters, police have tense moments in Los Angeles

Hours after authorities in Memphis, Tennessee, released video of the police beating of Tyre Nichols on Friday night, a candlelight vigil in downtown Los Angeles grew tense, with police officers in riot gear facing off against 30 protesters outside the department’s headquarters.

By 10:15 p.m. PST, demonstrators shook and banged on a police car with an officer inside the vehicle, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Earlier, about 100 people gathered outside police headquarters after the release of video of the Jan. 7 beating of Nichols, who died three days later, according to the newspaper.

In the Nichols video that was released Friday night by the Memphis Police Department, two officers held the 29-year-old man as a third officer appeared to strike him in the head, according to The New York Times. An officer also beat him with a baton, and later during the video sequence, an officer punched Nichols at least five times while another officer held his hands behind his back.

In addition to Nichols, protesters in Los Angeles were holding the vigil for Keenan Anderson, who died earlier this month after Los Angeles police pinned him to the ground and used a stun gun on him at least six times during a 42-second span, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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