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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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.

5:55 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Memphis residents gather in front of memorial on street where police beat and detained Tyre Nichols 

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn and Phin Percy

Darin Abston Jr. prays next to a makeshift memorial near the location where Tyre Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers on Saturday in Memphis.
Darin Abston Jr. prays next to a makeshift memorial near the location where Tyre Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers on Saturday in Memphis. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial has been set up near the corner street sign where 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was seen being repeatedly beaten by Memphis police officers in surveillance video.

CNN spoke with Darin Abston Jr., who sat on the grass next to the memorial and played “Man in The Mirror” on his guitar. 

Abston said he believes hate and pride fueled the police officer’s actions. 

A makeshift memorial is seen where Tyre Nichols was beaten by police and later died, at Bear Creek Cove and Castlegate Lane in Memphis on Saturday.
A makeshift memorial is seen where Tyre Nichols was beaten by police and later died, at Bear Creek Cove and Castlegate Lane in Memphis on Saturday. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Abston also said it was “God’s love” that brought him out to the street corner today. 

CNN also spoke with Kiara Hill, another resident of the area, who 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 said. “And Tyre, out of the officers on the scene, he was the calmest.” 

“This SCORPION unit, they had no reason to do what he did to him. Moving forward,” Hill said, “I don’t know what can help this city.”

4:46 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Memphis police permanently scrap SCORPION unit tied to the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols

From CNN’s Chuck Johnston and Sharif Paget

The Memphis Police Department announced Saturday that it will permanently deactivate the department's SCORPION unit

Some of the five former Memphis police officers accused in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols were members of the unit, which was tasked with tackling rising crime in the city.

“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 interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit," a statement from the police department reads. "The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step."

“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process of all those impacted. The Memphis Police Department remains committed to serving our community and taking every measure possible to rebuild the trust that has been negatively affected by the death of Mr. Tyre Nichols,” the statement said.

More background: When it was launched in 2021, the SCORPION unit – which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods – was heralded by local leaders as a direct response to some of the city’s worst crime, including homicides.

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

In the wake of Nichols' death, and the revelation that some of the officers involved were from the unit, CNN reported that SCORPION had been inactivated during a review of all such special units in the force.

Nichols' family attorney Antonio Romanucci had called on Memphis police to permanently disband the unit immediately.

You can read more about the Memphis SCORPION unit here.

CNN's Chandelis Duster contributed reporting to this post.

5:17 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Trump calls Nichols video "absolutely horrible"

From CNN’s Kristen Holmes

Former President Donald Trump weighed in on the video released yesterday of Tyre Nichols' beating by police.

“When he started screaming for 'mom,' it was just a sad thing. I thought it was absolutely horrible,” Trump told reporters Saturday. 

When asked if it made him rethink police reform, Trump said it was an issue of judgment and use of force by law enforcement.

“You have to get the right people that know when you have to be tough and when not to be tough,” Trump said. “This was a case of being very, very tough, overly, overly crazy and it was sad to watch. He was begging for his mother. That was a sad thing to watch. And, you know, that's not a question of reform. That's a question of having people that understand what you have to do and understand life.”

3:53 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

GoFundMe created in honor of Tyre Nichols has raised over $660,000

From CNN’s Sara Smart and Chuck Johnston

A verified GoFundMe campaign started in memory of Tyre Nichols has raised over $664,974 dollars as of Saturday afternoon. 

At around 8 p.m. Friday night, an hour after video of Tyre Nichols Jan. 7 arrest was released, the donations stood at just about $82,000. Around 10 p.m., more than $178,000 had been donated to the fund, more than doubling the amount since the bodycam footage was released. By 10:30 p.m. Friday evening, more than $230,000 had been donated.

The GoFundMe was created by Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and reads in part: “My baby was just trying to make it home to be safe in my arms. Tyre was unarmed, nonthreatening, and respectful to police during the entire encounter!”

The donations will go toward the cost of Wells and her husband’s mental health services as well as their time off from their jobs, according to the page. It adds that they want to build a memorial skate park in honor of Tyre and his love for skateboarding and sunsets.

3:16 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Obamas call on communities to "reimagine public safety" after Nichols' "vicious, unjustified beating"

From CNN's Sonnet Swire

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama called on Americans to "reimagine public safety" in response to Tyre Nichols' fatal encounter with Memphis police.

"The vicious, unjustified beating of Tyre Nichols and his ultimate death at the hands of five Memphis police officers is just the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go in fixing how we police our streets," the Obamas said in a joint statement on Twitter, which included a selfie of Nichols.

"Along with mourning Tyre and supporting his family, it’s up to all of us to mobilize for lasting change,” the Obamas wrote Saturday, calling on communities to “reimagine public safety to prevent both crime and injustice.”

3:35 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

NFL pledges to combat injustice and inequity after "senseless" death of Nichols

From CNN's Kevin Dotson

Following the death of Tyre Nichols and the release Friday of the arrest video showing his beating at the hands of Memphis Police Department officers, the NFL issued a statement Saturday.

“We remain deeply committed to combating the injustices and inequities that plague our society,” it said.

See the tweet:

2:25 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Nichols' family was unaware sheriff's deputies were present during police encounter, attorney says

From CNN’s Mark Morales and Shimon Prokupecz in Memphis

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said the family of Tyre Nichols did not know there were two members of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at the scene where the beating took place earlier this month.

“This was the first they heard of it,” Crump told CNN Saturday.

Two deputies with the sheriff's office were put on leave pending an investigation, CNN previously reported. Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. released a statement Friday night saying he made the decision after viewing the video for the first time.

2:21 p.m. ET, January 28, 2023

Democratic state lawmakers representing Memphis area plan to file police reform bills

From CNN’s Hannah Sarisohn 

Rep. Joe Towns Jr. speaks during a news conference at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees headquarters in Memphis on Saturday morning.
Rep. Joe Towns Jr. speaks during a news conference at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees headquarters in Memphis on Saturday morning. (Alyssa Pointer/Reuters)

A pair of Democratic state lawmakers intend to file police reform legislation ahead of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Tuesday filing deadline, the lawmakers said Saturday.

The announcement comes the morning after officials released video of Tyre Nichols' deadly police encounter.

The bills will seek to address mental health care for law enforcement officers, hiring, training, discipline practices and other topics, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, who represents a portion of Memphis and Shelby County, said. 

Rep. Joe Towns Jr., who also represents a portion of Memphis, said legislation could pass through the state house as early as April or May. 

While Democrats hold the minority with 24 representatives compared to the Republican majority of 99 representatives, Towns said this legislation is not partisan and should pass on both sides of the legislature.

“You would be hard-pressed to look at this footage (of Tyre Nichols) and see what happened to that young man, OK, and not want to do something. If a dog in this county was beaten like that, what the hell would happen?” Towns said. 

Hardaway addressed some of the unanswered questions remaining after watching the video of Nichols’ violent traffic stop and beating. 

“It makes no sense to have an elite, supposedly elite unit, on the streets, and yet we can’t figure out who that (SCORPION) unit answers to. How was a car chase initiated when the protocols in nearly every law enforcement agency in the nation demands that you go up the ranks and notify your superior that you’re participating, or about to participate in a car chase?” Hardaway said. 

The lawmaker said he thinks there’s more to the story, and that the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County deserve to know the “whole story as soon as possible.”

“You can’t have an effective law enforcement agency operating in Memphis, Tennessee, and Shelby County, unless you have the trust of Memphians and Shelby Countians,” Hardaway said. “You can’t gain the trust of Memphians and Shelby Countians unless you’re truthful, and you can���t be truthful if you’re not transparent.” 

Both Hardaway and Towns praised the peaceful nature of local protests Friday night, which is what Nichols’ mother asked for ahead of the video release.