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Memphis police disband crime-fighting unit whose members are accused of fatally beating Tyre Nichols

Joseph Wilkinson, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

The Memphis police unit whose members are charged with beating Tyre Nichols to death was dissolved Saturday.

“In the process of listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community leaders, and the uninvolved officers who have done quality work in their assignments, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION unit,” the Memphis Police Department said in a statement.

Police chief Cerelyn Davis created the 40-officer Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit in the fall of 2021. It was tasked with making low-level arrests, such as weapons possession, in neighborhoods that police leaders designated as “high crime” areas.

The unit had been inactive since Jan. 7, the day officers beat Nichols, according to Mayor Jim Strickland. Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died three days later in a hospital.

Five involved officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired on Jan. 20. They were all members of the SCORPION unit.

The five officers were charged with second-degree murder and several other crimes on Thursday.

In speeches and protests after Nichols’ death, community leaders and activists called for the end of the Scorpion unit.

“These are suppression units. These are saturation units,” Nichols family attorney Antonio Romanucci said at a Friday news conference. “And what they really turn out to be are oppression units.”


Body- and traffic-camera video of the officers punching, kicking, pepper-spraying and clubbing Nichols was released Friday night.

The video release on Friday night prompted the sheriff of Shelby County, which includes Memphis, to suspend two of his deputies.

Shelby County sheriff Floyd Bonner said late Friday that both deputies “appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between (Memphis) police and Tyre Nichols.” He did not provide further details, but noted he has “concerns” about the Shelby County deputies after watching footage of the traffic stop that culminated in Nichols death.

Earlier Friday, Bonner vowed he would do everything in his power to prevent similar “senseless” tragedies from occurring in the future.

“I am a second-generation law enforcement officer, and I am troubled by what we all saw captured on video,” he said in a statement. “This horrible incident tarnished the badge that I wear, and many other good officers wear every day.”


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