The Memphis Police Department has deactivated a police unit whose members fatally beat Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop earlier this month.
On Saturday (January 28), Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis announced that the "Scorpion" unit had been disbanded in the wake of Nichols' death, the Associated Press reports.
“It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit,” Davis said in a statement, noting that a "cloud of dishonor" loomed over the police unit.
The Scorpion unit, or Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods, operated with three teams and an estimated 30 officers. The decision to shut down the unit marks a reversal from Davis' initial remarks that she wouldn't go through with its deactivation due to “some egregious acts” by a few officers.
But pressure mounted after police footage released to the public on Friday (January 27) showed some of its members beating Nichols like a "piñata" and in a way comparable to the 1991 beating of Rodney King, lawyers and family members said.
The Memphis Police Department initially stated that Nichols was pulled over by officers for alleged reckless driving on January 7. Confrontations occurred before and after Nichols fled the scene on foot, police said.
Following his encounter with officers, Nichols complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital where he died on January 10, three days after the stop.
Five Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired earlier this month and charged last week in connection to Nichols' death.
On Monday (January 30), the department said a sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, was "relieved of duty" for his involvement in the traffic stop where police fatally beat Nichols.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said it was a “decent and just decision” to disband the unit whose officers played a role in Nichols' death.
“We must keep in mind that this is just the next step on this journey for justice and accountability, as clearly this misconduct is not restricted to these specialty units. It extends so much further,” the lawyers said in a statement.
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