Memphis man, attorney discuss encounter with SCORPION unit

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION unit was formed in 2021 to crack down on street crimes – drug crimes, stolen guns and cars and more.

But less than two years later, it no longer exists after at least seven officers were put on leave in connection to the beating death of Tyre Nichols.

Since the death of the 29-year-old, we’ve heard from multiple people in the community who say they’ve had encounters of their own with some of the SCORPION unit officers, some of them the same ones who have been fired and charged in the death of Nichols.

On Jan. 4, Robert Spence said his client, Monterrious Harris, was approached by eight Memphis Police officers, including Detectives Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Demetrius Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, and Preston Hemphill, all members of the SCORPION Unit.

They’re also the five officers fired and one officer currently on leave pending an internal investigation within MPD in connection to the death of Nichols.

“It was scary, it was real scary, it was just even more terrifying that later I found out the same guys who beat me up they turned around and killed this man,” said Harris.

According to the incident report, the officers were investigating at the Twin Oaks Apartment when it said Harris was in a car with a strong marijuana smell and tried to run from the cops.

It goes on to say that they observed Harris throw a baggy away with a “leafy substance” inside.

You can hear this in an audio recording, provided by Harris’s attorney, where you can hear someone yelling, “What did you throw? What the f*** did you just throw?”

The report goes on to say detectives discovered multiple guns and a scale in the car.

Spence said this account of his client is false.

“Then they made up a bunch of false charges against him in order to hide what they had done. It’s interesting when you read the affidavit of complaint, it doesn’t mention that they assaulted him, they beat him, he had to go to the hospital,” he said.

Spence said although it does not say it in the affidavit, Harris was admitted to Regional One.

“Luckily for him, there were no broken bones, lot of bruises, and knots, they just beat him up.”

Spence said they’re now filing a lawsuit against all the involved officers for creating what he calls a “vigilante squad”: Disgust. Really just disgust. It’s like we can do better than that. We can be a better city than that, we can have better policing than that.”