Tyre Nichols: ‘Scorpion’ unit disbanded as protests continue across the country over fatal Memphis police beating video
The police unit whose members were responsible for the beating of Tyre Nichols has been disbanded after the release of a video showing his killing sparked outrage across the country.
The decision to “permanently deactivate” the “Scorpion” unit came on Saturday after the city’s police chief CJ Davis met with the unit’s remaining officers to discuss a way forward in the wake of the death of Nichols.
It comes as protesters took to the streets for rallies across the United States calling for justice after the death of the 29 year old.
The video shows a violent confrontation between officers and Nichols, during which officers can be seen punching him and using batons and taser weapons to subdue him as he cried out for his mother.
The officers were then seen standing around after the attack and failing to provide any medical care as they laughed and joked about their roles in the arrest.
Protests took place immediately after the release of the video on Friday night, with protesters in Memphis shutting down a bridge on I-55. There were no arrests made, say police in the city.
Police in riot gear faced off with protesters in Los Angeles after a crowd gathered outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.
Nichol’s death comes not long after a candlelit vigil was held in the city for Nichols and Keenan Anderson who ho died in the city earlier this month after a confrontation with police.
In New York three protesters were arrested, one of whom climbed onto a police car and smashed the windshield, according to NYPD.
Marches were expected to take place on Saturday in Memphis, Georgia, Boston, Columbus, Baltimore, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh, among other cities.
Mr Davis announced the decision to close the “Scorpion” unit on 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 interests of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit,” the department said in a statement.
“The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step. 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.”
MPD added that the department was committed to “taking every measure possible to rebuild the trust that has been negatively affected by the death of Mr Tyre Nichols”.
Meanwhile, two sheriff’s deputies in Tennessee, who responded to the scene of the fatal arrest of Tyre Nichols have been “relieved of duty” following the release of video of the incident.
The move by Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr came as bodycam footage of the deadly arrest of Tyre Nichols was finally made public by the city of Memphis on Friday evening, one day after five police officers in the city were charged with his murder.
“Having watched the videotape for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols,” Sheriff Bonner said in a Friday night statement.
Sheriff Bonner says an internal investigation is underway into their conduct.
Barack Obama took to Twitter on Saturday to condemn the police violence against Nichols.
“The vicious, unjustified beating of Tyre Nichols and his ultimate death at the hands of five Memphis police officers is just the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go in fixing how we police our streets,” the former president tweeted on Saturday morning.
“Along with mourning Tyre and supporting his family, it’s up to all of us to mobilise for lasting change.”
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr, and Justin Smith – all former Memphis Police Department officers – have been charged with second-degree murder. The officers were fired last week after an investigation into Nichols’s death.
The former officers are each facing additional charges, which are aggravated assault – acting in concert; aggravated kidnapping; official misconduct and official oppression, according to the Shelby County District Attorney’s office.
The police department announced the firing of the officers on 20 January.
“After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we have determined that five MPD officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid. Earlier today, each officer charged was terminated from the Memphis Police Department,” the agency said.
Reverend Al Sharpton is set to give the eulogy at the funeral of Tyre Nichols on 1 February at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. The civil rights activist said in a statement that “firing these officers for misconduct is not enough”.
“Justice will only be served when all five are charged with killing Tyre Nichols for the simple act of driving while Black,” he added.