Tyre Nichols arrest video released by city of Memphis

By Matt Meyer, Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell and Michelle Krupa, CNN

Updated 8:57 PM ET, Sun January 29, 2023
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9:20 a.m. ET, January 29, 2023

We've wrapped up our live coverage. For more reporting on the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols and the public response to his death, read here, or scroll through the updates below.

8:08 a.m. ET, January 29, 2023

Protesters across the US decry police brutality after Tyre Nichols’ death

From CNN's Nouran Salahieh

Protesters once again took to the streets Saturday night to decry police brutality after the release of video depicting the Memphis police beating that led to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Demonstrators marched through New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, among other cities across the nation on Saturday, raising signs bearing his name and calling for an end to abuses of authority.

In Memphis, at a makeshift memorial near the corner where Nichols was beaten, resident Kiara Hill expressed her disappointment and said the neighborhood was quiet and family-oriented.

“To see the events unfold how they’ve unfolded, with this Tyre Nichols situation, is heartbreaking. I have a son,” Hill told CNN. “And Tyre, out of the officers on the scene, he was the calmest.”

Official backlash in the case has been relatively swift. The five Memphis officers involved in the beating – who are also Black – were fired and charged in Nichols’ death. The unit they were part of was disbanded, and state lawmakers representing the Memphis area began planning police reform bills.

9:10 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Memphis police must purge 'bad apples' and enact intensive de-escalation training, congressman says

The Memphis police who brutally beat Tyre Nichols "acted on, basically, blue testosterone and ego," the area's congressman said Saturday, calling on the force to intensify de-escalation training following deactivation of the officers' SCORPION unit.

Officials "need to clean the department of bad apples," Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, told CNN's Pamela Brown. "They need to get intensive training and make sure de-escalation comes first."

Citing video of Nichols' vicious traffic stop, it seemed the "attitude of the SCORPION unit -- and maybe police in general, but ... more likely the SCORPION unit -- (was) specifically to take their aggressions out and take the law into their own hands," Cohen said.

"This is always wrong. I don't know how they've been trained. I'm sure they've been trained well, but I don't know if this group particularly learned their lesson, and they acted on basically blue testosterone and ego."

"They didn't take their oath of office to their heart, and they just beat him to hell," he said.

Beyond the five officers fired and facing murder charges, "there were at least four other officers on the scene that stood around and did nothing," Cohen said. "The duty to render aid is a major part of a police officer's job to protect and serve. Those officers did not do that."

Memphis needs more money to "get a better grade of officer," Cohen said, noting some recently left the city's department for higher-paying jobs in Dallas and other places.

A return to community-oriented policing also could help, he said, with police "in the communities making friends, helping people and getting tips ... rather than have SCORPION units out to pounce on people."

8:14 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Nixing the SCORPION unit without new training is "putting lipstick on a pig," council chair says

From CNNs Hannah Sarisohn

Memphis City Council chair Martavius Jones speaks to CNN on Saturday.
Memphis City Council chair Martavius Jones speaks to CNN on Saturday. (CNN)

Disbanding the SCORPION unit of the Memphis Police Department without giving officers new training would be "putting lipstick on a pig," the city council chair said Saturday.

"If ... we give it a new name but they have the same tactics ... if there are no new training ideas, if there are not new directives, then we're just putting lipstick on a pig," Martavius Jones told CNN’s Jim Acosta hours after the permanent deactivation of the squad that had included all five former police officers indicted in Tyre Nichols' deadly beating.

Jones doesn't blame the community’s fear of the police department, he said.

“Now, it is my opinion that it rests with my colleagues and I from a legislative standpoint to put things in place to try to prevent things like this from happening again,” Jones said. “Now, it’s up to the council to act." 

“We need to have an overall review of the various units within law enforcement,” he said, adding the council must listen to the community, then legislate those ideas.

As for any scrutiny of other law enforcement on the scene of Nichols' deadly beating, Jones will “trust the process,” he said.

8:00 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Police chief deserves credit, and will be held to account for rebuilding trust, council chair says

From CNNs Hannah Sarisohn 

Memphis police chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Memphis on Friday.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Memphis on Friday. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

The Memphis police chief deserves credit for doing her part to charge the five former officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ police beating death with crimes -- and also now must take accountability and help rebuild community trust, the city council chair said Saturday.

“Starting with the head of the police department all the way down to the recruits in the class right now, they have a vast responsibility to go out into this community to rebuild trust,” Martavius Jones told CNN’s Jim Acosta.

“It’s going to be incumbent upon them to be visible, to listen," added Jones, noting he was the “lone” council member to vote against Cerelyn “CJ” Davis' confirmation as chief but is “willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.” 

The civil rights attorney representing Nichols' family also applauded Davis for arresting and, with Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, charging the five Black officers within 20 days of Nichols' vicious encounter with officers near his home.

“When you see police officers commit crimes against citizens, then we want you to act just as swiftly and show, as the chief said, the community needs to see it," Ben Crump said. "But we need to see it, too, when it’s White police officers."

Some background: Davis took charge of the Memphis Police Department only 20 months ago. Known nationally as an advocate for police reform, she touted big plans, including forging new ties with community leaders and working to reduce violent crime -- with hopes to elicit trust in law enforcement in Tennessee’s second-most populous city.

Now, Tyre Nichols' beating death puts her leadership to a crucial test.

Read more about Davis here.

8:29 a.m. ET, January 29, 2023

Nichols family demanded SCORPION unit be shuttered — and wants more, their lawyer says

From CNN’s Chuck Johnston

Footage of Memphis officers viciously beating Tyre Nichols reveals a culture of violence in the department's SCORPION unit — which Nichols' family's legal team insisted be scrapped — civil rights attorney Ben Crump told CNN hours after the squad was disbanded for good.

“We think that this was part of the culture of the SCORPION unit. And so we demanded that they disbanded immediately before we see anything like this happen again,” Crump told Pamela Brown on Saturday.

That critical step, though, is not enough, Crump continued.

“I think we need to know if there’s a patten and practice of excessive use of force. I know the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is investigating this killing of Tyre Nichols. But our hope is that we’ll expand the pattern and practice (probe) because many citizens have questioned not just the SCORPION unit but the Memphis Police Department and their policing where this bias towards Black people," he said. "It is important to look into, and ... there are people reaching out and their complaints weren’t being heard before this Tyre Nichols death garnered national attention. That’s concerning."

As the nation absorbs the stunning video of Nichols' deadly encounter with police, there will be "more fallout," Crump added.

"Whether that's going to lead to criminal charges, we have to see, but we do think there was some other officers there that should have been charged, not just these five,” Crump said, noting new video that shows officers walking around Nichols as he lay on the ground.

“How heartbreaking was it when he was handcuffed there on the ground moaning and everybody was walking around so nonchalantly, as if this was just business as usual?" Crump asked. "That’s why we said the SCORPION unit has got to go."

7:04 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Scrapping the SCORPION unit isn't enough, Memphis council member says

From CNN’s Sharif Paget

Memphis City Council member Patrice Robinson speaks with CNN on Saturday.
Memphis City Council member Patrice Robinson speaks with CNN on Saturday. (CNN)

Deactivating the SCORPION squad of the Memphis Police Department -- which all five former police officers indicted in Tyre Nichols' deadly beating had been members of -- doesn’t go far enough in addressing issues within the agency, Memphis City Council member Patrice Robinson told CNN’s Jim Acosta Saturday.

“The community has a lot more questions and a lot more demand. We’ve gotten emails from many citizens in our community. They’re all concerned and they (are) expressing exactly what they see and what they want to see in our police department. We really need to investigate and find out what’s going on,” she said. “The council is committed to making this right and ensuring that our community is safe.”
“Our community deserves better. We have to fight the bad players in our community, and now we’ve got to fight our own police officers. That is deplorable,” Robinson said. “We’re going to have to do something.”

Permanently deactivating the SCORPION unit was "absolutely necessary but essential to give the family peace," city council member JB Smiley Jr. told CNN affiliate WMC, adding it's time for more transparency and training within the Memphis Police Department.

"My concern going forward is to make sure we don't create another unit and just call it something else. We have to be intentional about making sure that we restructure everything as it relates to these types of units going into the communities and terrorizing people," Smiley said.
"What you would almost expect at the next council meeting, there will be a series of legislation addressing Memphis police, police transparency, excessive force, body cam and, more specifically as it relates to this, training. This council is hearing the community ... Hold us accountable, show up at every council meeting until we pass comprehensible legislation that change the way we police in the city of Memphis." 

You can read more about SCORPION here.

6:41 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

More cities should take action on police units like SCORPION, Tyre Nichols' family lawyers say

From CNN's Chuck Johnston

Lawyers representing Tyre Nichols' family -- civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci -- released the following statement in response to the permanent deactivation of the Memphis Police Department's SCORPION unit, of which all five former police officers indicted in Nichols' deadly beating had been members.

"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. We hope that other cities take similar action with their saturation police units in the near future to begin to create greater trust in their communities. 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."
5:54 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

All 5 officers charged in Tyre Nichols' death were members of SCORPION unit

From CNN’s Mark Morales in Memphis

All five former police officers indicted in the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols were members of the now-scrapped SCORPION unit, a spokesperson with the Memphis Police Department confirmed to CNN.

“The officers who have been terminated were members of the SCORPION Unit,” Major Karen Rudolph said in a statement Saturday.

The former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression for their actions during the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols. 

The Memphis Police Department announced earlier Saturday that it will permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit.

The Memphis mayor’s office declined to comment on the move Saturday afternoon.

Some background: When it was launched in 2021, the SCORPION unit – Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods – was heralded as a direct response to some of the city’s worst crime, with a focus on homicides, robberies, assaults and other felonies.

The unit was used in targeted deployments, which put officers into areas where police were tracking upticks in violent crime.

It faced increased scrutiny after revelations that officers from the unit were involved in Nichols' death. The family's attorney, Antonio Romanucci, had called on Memphis police to permanently disband the unit immediately.

You can read more about SCORPION here.