Attorneys call for police chief to eliminate SCORPION unit in wake of Tyre Nichols’ death
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Attorney Ben Crump, alongside other attorneys and Tyre Nichols’ family, reacted to the arrests of five former Memphis Police officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ investigation.
Crump applauded prosecutors for the speed with which charges were brought in the case.
Former officers Tadarrius Bean, Justin Smith, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley and Emmit Martin are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping causing bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping while possessing a weapon, official misconduct thru unauthorized exercise of official power, official misconduct thru failure to perform a duty imposed by law, official oppression, and aggravated assault - act in concert.
Those officers are now out on bond.
Crump says while the family was adamant on getting first-degree murder charges, they are respectful of the charges that were brought forth.
“We applaud the district attorney for bringing charges against these officers,” Crump said.
Tyre Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells says after the charges were explained, the family became satisfied, and he called for peace.
“We want peaceful protest. That’s what the family wants. That’s what the community wants,” he said.
He says the family is very pleased with the swift action brought forth.
Tyre Nichols’ mother said her son is looking down smiling, because he always wanted to be famous one day.
“I want to say...I’ve never seen the video, but what I’ve heard is very horrific,” Rowvaughn Wells said.
She says no mother should go through what she is going through, but said her son loved her to death.
“For a mother to know her child was calling for her in their time of need, and I wasn’t there for her, do you know how I feel?” she asked.
Crump said the speed with which the officers were held accountable should be the standard moving forward for everyone in America.
“No longer should you tell us we need to wait six months to a year, when you have video evidence of a crime against these officers,” he said. “...We have never seen swift justice like this.”
He compared Nichols’ death to others across the country and says there is an “unwritten law” that police officers can use excessive force against Black and brown people.
Crump suggested creating a “Tyre law” in Tennessee to highlight the importance for police officers to intervene when they see crimes being committed, even among their fellow officers.
“That is the legacy we want to leave behind for Tyre (Nichols),” Crump said.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci spoke about the SCORPION unit, which was responsible for conducting the traffic stop on Tyre Nichols.
“Make no mistake, Tyre Nichols was an innocent victim on that night. He did nothing wrong. He was caught up in a sting,” Romanucci said.
He says there is likely a significant difference in the use of force between units like SCORPION and traditional MPD officers.
“They can’t collect guns, they can’t find stolen cars unless they trap innocent people in this web,” he said.
He called for Police Chief CJ Davis to disband the SCORPION unit immediately.
“How will the community ever, ever trust a SCORPION unit?” he asked. He called for all police chiefs in the country to review their special units.
He also says the medical examiner told attorneys that Nichols’ injuries were consistent with a severe beating.
Romanucci called the act of kidnapping “terrorism.”
“They acted together, as that pack of wolves, to inflict harm, terrorism, oppression of liberty, oppression of constitutional rights, that led to murder,” he said.
NAACP Memphis President Van Turner says he helped put up SkyCop cameras in the area Nichols was pulled over during his time on city council.
“Little did we know these cameras would catch this type of crime,” Turner said.
He says the NAACP will fight alongside the family and attorneys through the end.
Family members and attorneys got the chance to review the police body cam footage Monday before it was publicly released. They also met with Memphis police.
Mulroy said in a statement Thursday that he expects the video to be publicly released sometime after 6 p.m. Friday.
The family retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci to represent them following Nichols’ death. Crump called the video “appalling, heinous, violent and troublesome.”
Crump said Nichols’ mother was unable to sit through more than a minute of the video. In that first minute, Tyre asked police officers, “What did I do?” Crump said.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy spoke about the arrests Thursday afternoon.
“We understand and acknowledge the grief that the friends and family of Tyre Nichols are experiencing right now,” Mulroy said.
Nichols was pulled over by Memphis police in the Hickory Hill area on January 7 for what was originally reported as reckless driving.
“The actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible,” Mulroy said.
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