MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — One month after the traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols, another man is coming forward with a claim that he was beaten by officers with the same special unit, near the same area, three days earlier.
Monterrious Harris is seeking $5 million in damages in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal district court against the City of Memphis, five now-former Memphis police officers, and four unnamed defendants.
Harris’ attorney Robert Spence claims members of MPD’s SCORPION Unit deprived Harris of his Fourth- and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights in a traffic stop on Jan. 4.
“Since its organization, the Scorpion Unit has terrorized numerous citizens,
especially African-American men, in communities throughout the City of Memphis,” the lawsuit alleges.
Former Officers Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., Justin Smith, Demetrius Haley, and Tadarrius Bean are mentioned by name.
According to the lawsuit:
Mr. Harris, while visiting his cousin at an apartment complex in Memphis, was suddenly swarmed by a large group of assailants wearing black ski-masks, dressed in black clothing, brandishing guns, other weapons, hurling expletives and making threats to end his life if he did not exit his car. Unknown to Mr. Harris at the time – the black masked assailants were members of the Scorpion Unit. Not once did any member of the Scorpion Unit identify himself as a police officer. Mr. Harris – believing himself to be a victim of a car-jacking – panicked and attempted to reverse his vehicle, striking an object located behind his vehicle prior to exiting his vehicle with his hands raised. Consistent with the beating visited upon Mr. Nichols, the Scorpion Unit then exacted a swift, violent, and continuous physical assault on Mr. Harris that included punching, stomping, and dragging him across concrete. Fortunately, residents of the apartment complex heard the loud shouting and noise and came outside to investigate.– Monterrious Harris lawsuit
When Harris arrived at the criminal justice center, attorneys say a nurse there ordered that he be taken to a hospital for treatment.
Harris, 22, is an Army veteran who lives in the same Hickory Hill neighborhood where Nichols lived, the lawsuit states.
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A police affidavit from Harris’ Jan. 4 traffic stop states that Harris was pulled over by officers in the 3600 block of Outland Road as the SCORPION Unit was conducting a trespassing sweep of an apartment complex.
Officers said a Chrysler 300 drove toward them “at a high rate of speed before stopping,” then went in reverse before Harris tried to get out and get away.
Police said they searched the car and found marijuana, Xanax, and a loaded handgun inside. Harris was charged with several drug crimes, trespassing, evading arrest, and other charges. No mention of a physical confrontation is made in court documents.
The case against Harris is ongoing in Shelby County.
While Harris survived his alleged encounter with the SCORPION Unit, Nichols died in a hospital three days later. The investigation in that incident has led to charges against five officers, and a total of 13 officers are under investigation, city officials said Tuesday.
The special unit has been disbanded by MPD.
“A lot went wrong on January 7,” Police Chief C.J. Davis told city council members Tuesday, addressing the Nichols case.