On Friday, bodycam and surveillance footage was released showing the beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis Police Department officers, some of whom were part of a special division of the Organized Crime Unit called the Scorpion unit. The group is now inactive at the order of the mayor, while the Shelby County sheriff has suspended the other two officers who arrived on the scene of Nichols' beating.
Local news reports that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the Scorpion Unit "has been inactive since the death of Tyre Nichols." The name is an acronym for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods. The 50-officer unit was created in 2021 to curb the rising tide of violent crime in the city.
According to the Daily Mail, the Scorpion Unit made 566 arrests, 390 of which were felonies, between October 2021 and January 23, 2022.
The Shelby County criminal court announced on Thursday that former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr, and Justin Smith were terminated after the incident, and charges of second-degree murder were announced on all five.
Authorities claimed Nichols was pulled over because of reckless driving on January 7. The officers said that they approached his vehicle, a confrontation ensued, that Nichols fled on foot, and officers gave chase. He was then detained and taken into custody but Nichols complained of shortness of breath. He was taken to a hospital where he later died on January 10.
The Daily Mail reports that two additional deputies arrived after the five had subdued Nichols and upon their arrival, "The group of officers could be seen standing around the injured man, first bumping each other as he lays twitching on the ground before an eighth officer appears and paramedics arrive."
Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr said, "Having watched the videotape for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who arrived on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols."
"I have launched an internal investigation into the conduct of these deputies to determine what occurred and if any policies were violated. Both of these deputies have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of this administrative investigation," Bonner Jr added.
Antonio Romanucci, one of the lawyers for Nichols' family, said "I will not be at all surprised when more criminal charges come against police officers."
Romanucci also spoke of the Scorpion Unit and said, "Make no mistake, Tyre Nichols was an innocent victim on that night. He did nothing wrong. He was caught up in a sting."
Ben Crump, the lawyer who represented the family of George Floyd following his death in 2020 and another attorney for Nichols' family, said at a press conference that the Scorpion Unit was not tasked for traffic stops and "We believe that this was a pattern and practice, and Tyre is dead because that pattern and practice went unchecked by the people who were supposed to check that."
On Thursday, Joe Biden called for "peaceful protest" in the streets of Memphis and he released a statement and said, "I join Tyre's family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice."
FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday also called for "peaceful protest."On Friday night, protests erupted in Memphis and cities across America, including one in NYC that saw a protester smash a cop car's window.
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