Memphis disbands police after fatal beating as protesters take to the streets

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Jan 28 (Reuters) – The special police unit that included the five Memphis police officers charged in the fatal beating of Tyree Nichols was disbanded on Saturday after new protests took place in U.S. cities a day after the horrific video of the attack released.

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

Videos from police body-worn cameras and a camera mounted on a utility pole show Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, repeatedly yelling “Mom!” as officers kicked, punched and clubbed him in his mother’s neighborhood following a Jan. 7 traffic stop. He was hospitalized and died of his injuries three days later.

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

Nichols’ family and staff expressed outrage and grief, but urged protesters to remain peaceful. That demand was largely heeded on Friday, when scattered protests erupted in Memphis — where demonstrators briefly blocked an interstate — and elsewhere.

Cities across the United States saw renewed nonviolent demonstrations on Saturday. In Memphis, protesters chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” an angry cat yelled at a police car that was watching the procession, with several making obscene gestures. Some cheered loudly when they learned of SCORPION’s disbandment.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in New York’s Washington Square Park before marching through Manhattan as lines of police marched alongside them.

Taken together, the four videos released Friday show police hitting Nichols although he appeared to pose no threat. The initial traffic stop was for reckless driving, although the police chief said a reason for the stop has not been proven.

The SCORPION unit, short for Operation Street Crime to Restore Peace to Our Neighbourhoods, was set up in October 2021 to focus on crime hotspots. Critics say such specialized teams can be prone to abuse.

Friends and family say Nichols was an affable, talented skateboarder who grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and moved to Memphis before the coronavirus pandemic. The father of a 4-year-old, Nichols worked at FedEx and had recently enrolled in a photography class.

Nate Speights Jr., 42, was part of a circle of friends, including Nichols, who met at an area Starbucks.

“He liked what he liked and marched to the beat of his own drum,” Speights said, recalling that Nichols would go to a park called Shelby Farms to watch the sunset when he wasn’t working a late shift.

Nichols’ death is the latest high-profile example of police using excessive force against blacks and other minorities. The 2020 killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, sparked worldwide protests against racial injustice.

Reporting by Maria Cardona in Memphis, Tennessee and Diane Bartz in Washington; Written by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Robert Birsel

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Diane Bartz

Thomson Reuters

Focused on US antitrust law as well as corporate regulation and legislation, with experience covering war in Bosnia, elections in Mexico and Nicaragua, as well as stories from Brazil, Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Nigeria and Peru.

#Memphis #disbands #police #fatal #beating #protesters #streets

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button