The Memphis police chief on Saturday disbanded the unit whose officers are charged with beating to death Tyre Nichols as the nation and the city struggled to come to grips with video showing police pummeling the Black motorist.
Police Director Cerelyn "CJ" Davis said she listened to Nichols' relatives, community leaders and uninvolved officers in making the decision.
"It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit," she said in a statement. She said the officers currently assigned to the unit "agree unreservedly" with the step.
The footage released Friday left many unanswered questions about the traffic stop involving the Black motorist and about other law enforcement officers who stood by as he lay motionless on the pavement.
The five disgraced former Memphis Police Department officers, who are also Black, were been fired and charged with murder and other crimes in Nichols' death three days after the arrest.
The recording shows police savagely beating Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker, for three minutes while screaming profanities at him in an assault that the Nichols family legal team has likened to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. Nichols calls out for his mother before his limp body is propped against a squad car and the officers exchange fist-bumps.
The five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
Davis has said other officers are under investigation, and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said two deputies have been relieved of duty without pay while their conduct is investigated.
Rodney Wells, Nichols' stepfather, said the family would "continue to seek justice" and noted that several other officers failed to render aid, making them "just as culpable as the officers who threw the blows."
A Memphis police spokesperson declined to comment on the role played by other officers who showed up at the scene.
Cities nationwide had braced for demonstrations, but the protests were scattered and nonviolent. Several dozen demonstrators in Memphis blocked the Interstate 55 bridge that carries traffic over the Mississippi River toward Arkansas. Protesters also blocked traffic in New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.
The Scorpion unit had three teams of about 30 street officers who target violent offenders in areas beset by high crime, Davis said.
Davis acknowledged that the police department has a supervisor shortage and said the lack of a supervisor in the arrest was a "major problem." City officials have pledged to provide more of them.