The police unit whose members were responsible for the beating of Tire Nichols has been disbanded after the release of a video showing his murder sparked outrage across the country.
The decision to “permanently disable” the Scorpion unit came Saturday after city Police Chief CJ Davis met with the unit’s remaining officers to discuss a way forward in the wake of Nichols’ death.
It comes as protesters took to the streets for demonstrations across the US demanding justice for the 29-year-old’s death.
The video shows a violent confrontation between officers and Nichols, in which officers can be seen hitting him and using batons and Taser weapons to subdue him as he yelled for his mother.
The officers were then seen standing around after the attack and failing to provide any medical aid while laughing and joking 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. No arrests were made, say the police in the city.
Police in riot gear clashed with protesters in Los Angeles after a crowd gathered outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.
Nichols’ death comes not long after a candlelight vigil was held in the city for Nichols and Keenan Anderson, who 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 its windshield, according to the NYPD.
Marches were expected to take place on Saturday in Memphis, Georgia, Boston, Columbus, Baltimore, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh, among others.
Davis announced the decision to close the “Scorpion” unit on Saturday. “In the process of listening carefully to the family of Tire Nichols, community leaders and the uninvolved officers who have done quality work in their assignments, it is in everyone’s best interest to permanently disable the Scorpion device,” says the department in a statement.
“The officers currently assigned to the unit wholeheartedly agree to this next step. While the heinous actions of a few cast a cloud of dishonor upon the title of Scorpion, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all affected .”
MPD added that the department was committed to “taking all possible measures to rebuild the trust that has been adversely affected by the death of Tire Nichols”.
Meanwhile, two Tennessee sheriff’s deputies who responded to the scene of the fatal arrest of Tire 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 body camera footage of the fatal arrest of Tire Nichols was finally released by the city of Memphis Friday night, a day after five city police officers were charged in his murder.
“After viewing the videotape for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who showed up to the scene after the physical confrontation between police and Tire Nichols,” Sheriff Bonner said in a statement Friday night.
Sheriff Bonner says an internal investigation into their conduct is ongoing.
Barack Obama took to Twitter on Saturday to condemn the police brutality against Nichols.
“The vicious, unjustified beating of Tyre Nichols and his eventual death at the hands of five Memphis police officers is just the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go to fix how we police our streets,” the former president tweeted. Saturday morning.
“Along with mourning Tyre and supporting his family, it is up to all of us to mobilize for lasting change.”
The vicious, unjustified beating of Tire Nichols and his eventual death at the hands of five Memphis police officers is just the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go to fix how we police our streets. pic.twitter.com/ITmrNNJhiT
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) 28 January 2023
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr, and Justin Smith – all former Memphis Police Department officers – are charged with second-degree murder. The officers were fired last week following an investigation into Nichols’ death.
The former officers each face 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 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 charged officer was terminated from the Memphis Police Department, the agency said.
Pastor Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy at the funeral of Tire Nichols on February 1 at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. The civil rights activist said in a statement that “dismissing these officers for misconduct is not enough.”
“Justice will only be done when all five are charged with killing Tire Nichols for the simple act of driving while Black,” he added.