Memphis police disbands unit linked to fatal beating

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Reuters) -The specialized police unit that included the five Memphis officers charged with the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols was disbanded on Saturday as more protests took place in U.S. cities a day after harrowing video of the attack was released.

The police department said in a statement it was permanently deactivating the SCORPION unit after the police chief spoke with members of Nichols’ family, community leaders and other officers. A police spokesperson confirmed all five officers were members of the unit.

Video recordings from police body-worn cameras and a camera mounted on a utility pole showed Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, repeatedly screaming “Mom!” as officers kicked, punched and struck him with a baton in his mother’s neighborhood after a Jan. 7 traffic stop. He was hospitalized and died of his injuries three days later.

Five officers involved in the beating, all Black, were charged on Thursday with murder, assault, kidnapping and other charges. All have been dismissed from the department.

The disbanding of the SCORPION unit, which focuses on street crime, came as protests continued across U.S. cities on Saturday, sparked by the harrowing video of the attack. 

“As a mother with a 29-year-old, that hits hard for me. And I’m trying so hard not to cry. But it’s hard because I have a 29-year-old and to hear a 29-year-old call for his mama. It’s not right. It’s supposed to be a system that protects us, that provides safety for us. But instead it’s killing us, murdering us, innocent lives who just began their adulthood.” 

On Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden, who has lived through two of his children’s deaths, made an effort to console Nichols’ parents over the phone. 

Tyre Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old, has become the latest face of a U.S. racial justice movement, galvanized by the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers.  Attorney Benjamin Crump, who was with Nichols’ parents during the call, urged Biden to get a police reform bill named for Floyd passed through the next Congress.


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