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Memphian says he was beaten by Memphis Police's SCORPION Unit 3 days before Tyre Nichols died

Monterrious Harris said masked officers "came out of nowhere" on Jan. 4 and beat him in a confrontation.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The five former Memphis policemen charged in the death of Tyre Nichols are now listed in a federal lawsuit by another Memphis resident. 

Memphis resident Monterrious Harris said he was beaten by those same officers in the SCORPION Unit just days before Nichols.

On Outland Road in Hickory Hill, about a few miles from where Tyre Nichols was stopped by MPD’s scorpion unit, another young man, 22-year-old Harris said he was beaten by the same five officers charged in Nichols’ death.

“He sent me a clip of Tyre in the hospital and it had all the officers down there,” said Harris.

On January 4th, three days before Tyre Nichols was stopped by Memphis Police’s Scorpion Unit and beaten, Harris said he was waiting on his cousin outside an apartment building on Outland Road. 

“That’s when masked guys, with masks and hoodies on, they came out of nowhere asking me to get out the car,” said Harris.

He said the men came around a corner and didn’t identify themselves, so he thought he was being robbed. He said backed his vehicle up hitting an object behind him. Shortly after, Harris noticed an officer’s vest with gun magazines clipped to it and believed he was a form of authority. That’s when he got out the car. 

“I like put my hands up and walked towards him. I’m like what’s going on. He grabbed me, hit me a couple times. Other guys closed in on me,” said Harris.

He said one officer slammed his head in the concrete. Harris said it wasn’t until he called for his cousin and neighbors came outside that those police stopped beating him. 

“I was scared like I didn’t know what to expect,” said Harris. “After they already had me detained and stuff, they kept saying how they wanted to air my car out. One officer was laughing at the other officer like, ‘Oh you’ve got your red beam on.’ He was like yes, I was ready to shoot him.'”

According to the official police report from Harris' arrest, MPD said Harris drove towards detectives in his car and then backed up at high speed, attempting to flee on foot before he was caught by police. 

Former officers Justin Smith, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills Jr. and Preston Hemphill, all fired due to their involvement in Tyre Nichols' death, were named on the arrest affidavit the night Harris was arrested. 

An officer in a marked vehicle arrived and took Harris to 201 Poplar. A nurse there requested Harris go to the hospital. He was taken to Regional One and released a few hours later back into police custody. 

The police report said Harris violated a number of laws including evading arrest, possession of a controlled substance, and convicted felon with possession of handgun; however, a federal lawsuit filed on his behalf states that the gun was not Harris' and belonged to his cousin.

While in jail, Harris’ mother called Spence Partners Law. Days later, they learned the officers charged in Nichols’ death are the same names as the officers listed in the police report for Harris. 

“We filed a lawsuit because we believe we can prove that there’s a policy and custom in MPD in which they violate the rights of young Black men like Monterrious,” said Jarrett Spence, Spence Partners Law.

Harris’ lawyers said they are glad the Scorpion Unit has been disbanded, but there is more work ahead. 

“What we don’t know is if this unit was something that’s been in apparition itself or if it’s something that’s capable of repetition,” said Andrew Horvath, Spence Partners Law.

As the question looms, Harris has one message for others. 

“Know your rights, for one, because these officers just do things and take action because they don’t expect you to know,” said Harris.

Harris’ lawyers said they are reviewing video and audio from that encounter with the SCORPION unit. We reached out to Memphis police. They said they are reviewing this investigation and cannot comment at this time.

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