MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — The five police officers who were fired after Tyre Nichols’ death hadn’t been with MPD long, and police haven’t told us what units they worked with during their time on the force.
But some who know the officers say at least one confirmed that he — and we are hearing several others — were with the new SCORPION Unit that MPD created in 2021 as a solution to fight crime.
“Their job is to identify the target area, flood that area with officers and suppress crime in that area mostly by visibility,” said Memphis Police Deputy Chief Don Crowe. “Just being present and having an officer there sees an impact on it.”
Cornell McKinney says the same SCORPION Unit stopped him on January 3, four days before Nichols was pulled over.
“I actually read it on the back of their vest. It said MPD SCORPION Unit,” he said.
It happened at a Marathon Gas Station at Ridgeway and Knight Arnold as he was catching a ride with a friend.
“All I heard is a ‘Freeze, get out the car. Put your MF hands up before I blow your heads off. Both of you get out the car. Put your hands up,'” he said, recalling the incident. “So I put my hands up, and one of the officers proceeded to come to the car, and he physically pulled me out by my shoulder with a gun no more than a foot away from my head.”
McKinney says the officers in unmarked cars would never say why they stopped them. He took this picture of the stop. They eventually asked who the drugs belonged to.
“I said, ‘Man, I just want to cross the street to get a pizza. And I’m on my way back to the house.’ He’s like ‘Uh, who is finna ride for this pound.’ I said, ‘Can we call my lawyer?’ Then the officer, he yelled out ‘This ain’t court. This ain’t the time for lawyers,'” he said. “I was like ‘Man I just came to get a pizza.’ He was like ‘I was just playing. Ain’t no pound in the car.’ And he let me walk off.”
McKinney showed us his call log when he says he placed two phone calls to MPD’s internal affairs to complain about the officer’s forcefulness, but he still hasn’t heard back.
Then he saw the picture of the five officers fired in the Tyre Nichols case.
“I was like that’s them. I said, ‘It’s crazy. That’s them,'” McKinney said. “Now they really hurt somebody. It could have been prevented if internal affairs took action like I was asking them to do.”
Audio obtained by WREG from Broadcastify of police radio traffic the night of Tyre Nichols’ beating specifically mentions calling more SCORPION Units to the scene.
Those who know some of the officers are waiting to see how this plays out. Former Shelby County Sheriff’s Captain Bennie Cobb says he has spoken with one of the fired officers who he coached years ago.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride emotionally for him. He has been in my office. I prayed with him a couple of times. Shared some information with him. And now as a result of the termination, there is more questions that’s being asked,” Cobb said. “I know the human person. If he is guilty of what he accused of and fired for, of course, justice has to be served.”
We are attempting to get more information from MPD about the stop involving Cornell McKinney and the fired officers’ involvement with the SCORPION Unit.