Members of the police unit were involved in his fatal beating
The Memphis Police Department on Saturday said it was shutting down the specialized Scorpion street-crime unit whose members included former officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols.
The move to disband the unit came a day after the city of Memphis, Tenn., released video footage of the Jan. 7 traffic stop that led to the death of Mr. Nichols. Authorities had warned the video would be brutal.
The footage showed several Memphis police officers repeatedly striking and kicking Mr. Nichols, including while he appeared subdued and defenseless. One of the officers also appeared to use a Taser on him.
Mr. Nichols died in a Memphis hospital three days later. His family said Mr. Nichols was fatally beaten beyond recognition. The Shelby County medical examiner’s office hasn’t released autopsy results.
In its statement Saturday, the Memphis Police Department said the “heinous actions of a few” had cast dishonor on the Scorpion team.
“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 statement said.
“It is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted,” the department said.
The Memphis Police created the unit in the fall of 2021. Scorpion stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. The unit of four 10-person teams focused on violent-crime reduction in high-crime areas of the city.
Lawyers for the family of Mr. Nichols had called for the Scorpion unit to be disbanded. In a joint statement issued late Saturday, the attorneys called on other cities with similar specialty units to consider doing the same.
“The Nichols family and their legal team find the decision to permanently disband this unit to be both appropriate and proportional to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, and also a decent and just decision for all citizens of Memphis,” the statement said.
In other fallout from the video release, the sheriff of Shelby County, Tenn., relieved two deputies of duty.
The deputies arrived after Memphis police had subdued Mr. Nichols, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said in a statement. But he launched an internal investigation amid concerns over their conduct, he said.
“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. I have launched an internal investigation into the conduct of these deputies to determine what occurred and if any policies were violated,” the sheriff said in a statement on Twitter.
“Both of these deputies have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of this administrative investigation,” he said, without identifying the officers by name.
The five former Memphis Police Department officers, all of whom are Black, were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, among other offenses, for the beating of Mr. Nichols, who also was Black. The police department fired the officers a week ago following an internal investigation.
Attorneys for three of the former Memphis officers couldn’t immediately be determined. An attorney for another of the ex-officers didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Blake Ballin, who represents accused former police officer Desmond Mills Jr., said his client arrived late to the scene.
“We are confident that the questions of whether Desmond crossed the lines that others crossed and whether he committed the crimes charged will be answered with a resounding no,” Mr. Ballin said.