Attorney Ben Crump denies rumors that the beating of Tyre Nichols was fueled by an officer’s grudge.
The brutal beating followed a pattern of the unit’s attacks on Black citizens, Crump said.
Rumors on social media about pre-existing animosity between the men have harmed Nichols’ family, he said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has denied rumors on social media that Tire Nichols’ beating was fueled by one of the officer’s personal grudges against him.
After five Memphis officers were fired and charged with murder in the beating of Nichols, an unverified Twitter post claimed there was a personal connection between Nichols and the ex-wife or girlfriend of Demetrius Haley, one of the officers.
The post, written by actor and activist Sir Maejor, fueled rumors that the beating was motivated by Haley’s personal gripe with Nichols and not typical police brutality. It was widely circulated online.
The rumors gained so much traction, in fact, that the Shelby County district attorney’s office was forced to acknowledge a question about it from Newsweek and note that the claims were under investigation.
On Friday, former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. After the arrangement, Crump, who is representing Nichols’ family, told reporters that the rumor was “bogus.”
After Nichols was beaten, then-officer Haley took photos of his damaged body as it lay bloody on the ground and shared it with a civilian, according to a department report obtained by Insider.
In his unverified Twitter post, Sir Maejor wrote that Haley sent a photo to his ex-girlfriend.
“We are aware that there were photographs that were taken,” Crump said. He said they had nothing to do with the “rumors that are out there in the social media world.”
“The family is dealing with enough, outside of these rumors,” added Crump while speaking from the steps of the city’s Criminal Justice Complex.
A video released from a January 7 traffic stop shows the officers brutally beating 29-year-old Nichols in the street less than 100 yards from his mom’s home as he called out for her. He died in the hospital three days later, prompting national police brutality protests in his honor.
Within 21 days, the five officers were fired, charged with murder, and the department’s “SCORPION unit” — which they were all members of — was disbanded.
Another officer, Preston Hemphill, who was not in the beating scene but did use a stun gun on Nichols after the initial stop, was also fired. Other officers are facing internal departmental charges.
The SCORPION unit, the department’s organized crime task force, was made up of 56 officers, according to a roster obtained by Insider.
Crump said Friday he was addressing the social media rumors because the family had been harrassed about it.
“This SCORPION unit had a pattern and practice of doing this to Black people in Memphis. That’s it,” Crump said Friday. “We don’t need to go further than that.”
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