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Tyre Nichols video updates: Memphis police deactivate unit behind traffic stop

Protesters gathered in Memphis, New York and other cities after officials released four videos of the fatal beating.

Peaceful protesters take to Memphis streets

  • Demonstrators returned to the streets of Memphis on Saturday with a largely peaceful stand against the elements of police culture that enabled the death of Tyre Nichols. His family had asked the crowds to remain nonviolent.
  • The Memphis Police Department said it has permanently deactivated its Scorpion unit, home to all five officers charged with murdering Nichols. Scorpion stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.
  • Experts and veterans of police leadership said they saw a series of mistakes and aggressive tactics in the way Nichols was treated by Memphis officers. Experts emphasized they weren't Memphis mistakes, or Black police officer mistakes: They are elements of American police culture.
  • Even as protests continued, healing began as family and friends reflected on Nichols as an avid skateboarder and photographer. Sidewalk surfing on four wheels, his mother said, was his life's passion.

Tennessee lawmakers to introduce police reform measures

A trio of Tennessee Democratic state lawmakers on Saturday vowed that police reform legislation would be forthcoming in the wake of Tyre Nichols' fatal beating at the hands of law enforcement.

State Rep. Joe Towns Jr., state House Democratic Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons, and Rep. G. A. Hardaway, all of Memphis, held a news conference to announce the measures.

The three said it will address implicit bias training, limits on officers who face termination or discipline in one jurisdiction then transfer to another, ongoing mental evaluation, access to information on bad or deceitful officers for juries, more selective hiring, reevaluation of the need to make arrests in traffic stops, and reevaluation of the need for low-level traffic stops themselves.

Towns said, "Never should a traffic stop cause you to put on a wooden overcoat, a coffin, at some point. Never should that happen. So we need to look at this very seriously."

Hardaway said bills face an initial deadline of Tuesday. Towns said the lawmakers could have until early spring, otherwise, to develop and fine tune any proposals that emerge from Nichols' death.

"It’s truly unfortunate that legislation is required," Clemmons said, "— that we would need to legislate humanity in 2023."

The Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Memphis police’s vaunted Scorpion unit is deactivated after Tyre Nichols' death

Memphis police’s vaunted Scorpion unit has been permanently deactivated.

“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,” the department said in a statement Saturday.

Five former Memphis police officers charged with murder in Nichols’ death were members of the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods unit, a spokeswoman for the Shelby County District Attorney’s office confirmed to NBC News on Saturday.

The anti-violence unit was launched in November 2021 when the city’s murder rate was soaring and residents were clamoring for action.

“I want to assure you we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again,” Mayor Jim Strickland said Friday in a weekly newsletter hours before the release of the video showing the police encounter that led to his death.

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NFL calls for change after 'senseless death' of Tyre Nichols

Uwa Ede-Osifo

A day after the release of video showing the police beating of Tyre Nichols, the NFL on Saturday condemned the violence.

"The NFL mourns the the tragic and senseless death of Tyre Nichols, and we send our condolences to his loved ones and the Memphis community," the league tweeted. "We remain deeply committed to combatting the injustices and inequities that plague our society and will continue to work with our social justice partners to support our communities and fight for change.”

The NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies weighed in on the case Friday.

"We are distraught to find ourselves dealing with a needless loss of life due to police brutality, and this time it was one of Memphis's own," the Grizzlies wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. "Let's support each other and respect how our fellow Memphians are coping."

Tyre Nichols protests continue across U.S.

Demonstrations continued Saturday in Atlanta, Boston and Charlotte following the release of video footage showing five former Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols, who died on Jan. 10.

In Charlotte, protesters marched while chanting "no justice, no peace" and "whose streets? Our streets." In downtown Atlanta, a protest was held near Centennial Olympic Park where many people held signs demanding justice for 29-year-old Nichols.

A large group of demonstrators gathered outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston on Saturday afternoon. "We want justice for our people," the group chanted.

Other protests are expected Saturday in Memphis, Tennessee; Baltimore, Maryland; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

The gatherings, which began Friday night after authorities released the video, have remained relatively peaceful.

Tyre Nichols’ death is another 'painful reminder' of America's policing issues, Barack Obama says

Former President Barack Obama said in a joint statement with Michelle Obama that Tyre Nichols' death is another "painful reminder of how far America still has to go in fixing how we police our streets."

Barack Obama called Nichols' fatal beating "vicious" and "unjustified."

"Along with mourning Tyre and supporting his family, it’s up to all of us to mobilize for lasting change," he said in a tweet Saturday.

Rodney King’s daughter says the Tyre Nichols video made her 'sick'

Lora Dene King, the daughter of Rodney King, said she was “past angry,” “past upset” and “past bothered” after watching footage of five former Memphis officers punching and kicking Tyre Nichols during a Jan.7 traffic stop. 

“I’m sick,” King said. “My stomach hurts watching that.”

The video, released to the public Friday night, has been compared to the 1991 beating of King’s father by Los Angeles police. King, who was 7 when her father was brutally beaten, said that there “seems like there’s no change except for hashtags and clearer videos.”

'He does what I would have done,' Georgetown Law professor says of Tyre Nichols’ instinct to run

Georgetown Law professor and NBC News legal analyst Paul Butler appeared on MSNBC Saturday to discuss video footage showing five former Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols.

When asked what might have caused Nichols to run from the police, Butler responded: "He does what I would have done if I was attacked by five armed thugs. I would have run, especially if my mother’s house was 100 yards away."

Police said they had stopped Nichols, 29, on Jan. 7 because of a traffic violation. The footage showed the officers punching and kicking Nichols, who died from his injuries three days later.

Butler, who wrote the book "Chokehold: Policing Black Men," said the officers' actions that night were "warrior policing on steroids."

Questions about whether ex-Memphis officer committed crimes he's accused of will be a ‘resounding no,’ attorney says

Mike Fomil

Mike Fomil and Minyvonne Burke

An attorney for former Memphis police Officer Desmond Mills Jr. said questions about whether his client crossed the lines that other officers crossed will be a "resounding no."

Attorney Blake Ballin’s comments follow the release of video footage showing the officers punching and kicking Tyre Nichols during a Jan. 7 traffic stop. Nichols, 29, died three days later.

“The videos released on January 27 have produced as many questions as they have answers,” Ballin said in a statement Saturday. “Some of the questions that remain will require a focus on Desmond Mills’s individual actions; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see when he arrived late to the scene; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see after he was pepper sprayed; and on whether Desmond’s actions crossed the lines that were crossed by other officers during this incident.”

Ballin continued: “We continue to urge caution and patience in judging Desmond Mills’s actions. We are confident that the questions of whether Desmond crossed the lines that others crossed and whether he committed the crimes charged will be answered with a resounding no.”

Mills and four of his colleagues were fired by the Memphis Police Department and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

5 ex-Memphis officers to be arraigned together Feb. 17

Five former Memphis police officers charged with killing Tyre Nichols will be arraigned together Feb. 17, court records show.

Desmond Mills Jr., Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression in connection with a Jan. 7 traffic stop that resulted in Nichols' death.

Video footage released Friday night showed officers beating, punching and kicking the 29-year-old. Nichols died at the hospital on Jan. 10.

The arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. at a Shelby County, Tennessee, court.

The Rev. Al Sharpton responds to 'horrific' video showing beating of Tyre Nichols

The Rev. Al Sharpton called video footage showing Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols during a Jan. 7 traffic stop “horrific.”

“Nearly three years after the murder of George Floyd shook the world, here we are,” he said in a statement Friday. “This video should be all a jury needs to convict each of the five officers who relentlessly beat Tyre Nichols to death. Justice needs to be delivered for Tyre and his family. I don’t think anyone who could stomach getting through this footage would disagree.”

Nichols, 29, died three days after the traffic stop.

The civil rights activist said that unless officers “continually see that those who use blunt force will go to jail,” the cycle of police brutality will continue.

“They need to understand that a badge isn’t a shield that lets them kill someone during a traffic stop,” he said. “And the only way to do that is through convictions and legislation.” 

Sharpton, the host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” will further address the video Saturday at the House of Justice in Harlem. On Wednesday, he will deliver the eulogy at Nichols’ funeral in Memphis.

Al Sharpton
The Rev. Al Sharpton. Susan Walsh / AP file

Lawmakers condemn killing of Tyre Nichols

Leila Sackur

Lawmakers across party lines condemned the death of Tyre Nichols after Memphis authorities on Friday released video footage of the beating that led to his Jan. 10 death.

Democrats, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, called for reviving the defunct George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The act would have lowered the threshold for federal wrongdoing convictions for officers, restricted law enforcement’s use of qualified immunity to hide from liability and limited police use of physical restraint methods like chokeholds.

But condemnations of police brutality and calls for cross-party action came from both sides of the House and Senate late Friday.

“This was a man beaten by the power of the state. We must unite against this blatant disregard for human life especially from those we trust with immense power and responsibility,” said Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

“A dangerous culture of violence has permeated far too many police departments in this country. Time and time again, it is lethal,” added Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., in a separate statement on Twitter.

Rep. Steve Cohen says Nichols decries officers' 'appalling lack of humanity'

Leila Sackur

Rep. Steve Cohen, who represents Tennessee’s 9th congressional district including parts of Memphis, said the video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by police was “overwhelming to watch.”

“It’s clear that Tyre Nichols died because of the brutality and callous disregard, really an appalling lack of humanity, of the Memphis police officers,” he said in a statement on Twitter early Saturday.

“From the first encounter with the police, it’s clear this was about ego,” he added. “They were not there to serve and protect, or even to apprehend; they were there to punish and dominate.”

Cohen was shown the video privately on his return to Memphis from Washington, D.C., prior to its public release, the statement said.

Cohen said he found the charges against the officers appropriate, and condemned not only the officers directly involved, but those on the scene who failed to render aid, according to the body camera footage.

Police make multiple arrests at NYC protest

Police in New York City made at least three arrests at a protest near Times Square on Friday night, a police captain told NBC News.

One arrest was for damage to a police car, a second was for punching a police officer, while the third was for an undisclosed reason, according to the official.

“While we understand, appreciate, and share the high emotional charge of this tragedy, our Department will never tolerate violence, willful destruction, or any other criminality,” NYPD commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in a statement late on Friday.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 27: NYPD officers arrest a demonstrator as people protest the death of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 2023 in New York City. The release of a video depicting the fatal beating of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, sparked protests in NYC and other cities throughout the country. Nichols was violently beaten for three minutes and killed by Memphis police officers earlier this month after a traffic stop. Five Black Memphis Police officers have been fired after an internal investigation found them to be “directly responsible” for the beating and have been charged with “second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.”  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Memphis Police Association says it is 'committed to the administration of justice'

Leila Sackur

Hours after video footage showing the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols was released on Friday, the Memphis Police Association posted a statement to its Facebook page.

The association offered condolences to Nichols' family, and said that it was "committed to the administration of justice and NEVER condones the mistreatment of ANY citizen nor ANY abuse of power."

"We have faith in the Criminal Justice System. That faith is what we will lean on in the coming days, weeks, and months to ensure the totality of circumstances is revealed" the statement added.

The statement did not name the accused officers, nor did it directly reference any specific charges. The Memphis Police Association represents more than 2,000 commissioned officers and retirees in the city, according to its website.

Los Angeles protesters gather outside police headquarters

Leila Sackur

Hours after authorities in Memphis released the video footage, groups of protesters began to gather outside LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

The protest began with a candlelight vigil but escalated as police and protesters engaged in direct confrontation. Officers were seen wearing riot gear and lined up on the streets outside police headquarters, preparing to control the crowd.

Footage appeared to show a smoke bomb was thrown at an LAPD unit late Friday, causing police to disperse, though authorities said they were prepared to act in case more protests continued overnight.

Image: US-POLICE-JUSTICE-DEMO
FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP - Getty Images

Rev. Al Sharpton: 'This video should be all a jury needs to convict'

Leila Sackur

Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton released a statement on Twitter early Saturday, ahead of speaking at a New York rally condemning Nichols’ death.

“Nearly three years after the murder of George Floyd shook the world, here we are. This video should be all a jury needs to convict each of the five officers who relentlessly beat Tyre Nichols to death,” Sharpton said.

He added “the sad reality is that police brutality will be an ever-present threat for Black and Brown Americans unless cops continually see that those who use blunt force will go to jail.”

Sharpton, who will be delivering the eulogy at Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday, echoed the family’s pleas for non-violence and warned “the more you act up, the more these cops will use it as an excuse for their despicable actions.”

‘Everybody adored him,’ Nichols’ father says of his son


What we know about the 5 police officers charged with beating Tyre Nichols to death

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault.

The officers had been on the job for between two and six years and some had participated in community anti-violence projects, prosecutors said.

Read the full story here.

Harrowing videos show police fatally beat Tyre Nichols, who cries out for his mother

It took 26 minutes for a stretcher to appear at the spot where Tyre Nichols was slumped over on the ground after a Memphis police officer was first seen kicking him in the face.

That was according to one of the four videos authorities released Friday night capturing the brutal assault on 29-year-old Nichols, who was pulled over during a Jan. 7 traffic stop and was dead three days later.

The videos depicted Nichols being punched, struck with a baton, appearing to be kicked in the face, and sprayed with an irritant. They also captured him crying out for his mother and saying he was trying to go home.

Read the full story here.