by: Jessica Gertler
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG Investigators have uncovered the list of cases dropped by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office that involved the five former officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols.
The WREG Investigators uncovered the cases through the Tennessee Public Records Act. The officers were part of a crime suppression team known as the SCORPION Unit. It’s been disbanded.
The DA’s office says 39 cases were dropped. Thirteen have already been expunged, meaning it’s wiped from the person’s criminal record.
Of the court records we’ve been able to obtain, the stories sound similar. Mostly, Black men were approached or pulled over by the officers who claimed they smelled a strong stench of marijuana or saw some kind of drugs or paraphernalia.
Not all of them involved a traffic stop. In some of the cases, the officers reportedly approached a person or group standing outside a church or in an abandoned parking lot.
In Monterrious Harris’ case, he says he was in his cousin’s apartment complex. He filed a suit in federal district court in February seeking $5 million in damages after he says the same five officers attacked him three days before Nichols’ death.
His attorney, Robert Spence, stated in the lawsuit that Harris was “suddenly swarmed” by what he didn’t know were police officers because they were in “black ski masks, dressed in black clothing, brandishing guns, other weapons, hurling expletives and making threats.”
He thought he was being carjacked and claims they punched, stomped, and dragged him across the concrete.
In a sworn affidavit, the officers had a different story, stating they were “conducting an investigation” when a car began “screeching its tires and drove at detectives at a high rate of speed before stopping.”
One of the officers approached the car and said he “could smell a strong odor consistent with marijuana.” They claim Harris tried to “evade” officers and “disregard commands”. They say they found “marijuana” and a gun in his car.
We reached out to Harris’ attorney about his client’s case being dropped but have yet to hear back.
The District Attorney’s Office says it reviewed about 100 cases in total, dismissing nearly 40% of them and lowering charges in about 10 more.
“Vast majority of the cases are street-level drug offenses and weapon offenses,” said prosecutor Paul Hagerman.
DA Steve Mulroy says the reason for doing so came to the lack of credibility the officers would have in court. He added on WREG’s Live at 9 last week that this is just one of the ways his office is working to restore trust between police and the community.
“When we do address them, we are going to restore public confidence and public cooperating with law enforcement again the way they should be, providing tips,” Mulroy said.
We have also requested a list of the cases where the charges were lowered. The DA’s office says it’s working on compiling that information for us.