By Wiley Henry

MEMPHIS, TN — The savage beatdown that five Black police officers inflicted upon Tyre Nichols during a purported traffic stop, set off a powder keg of raw emotions and a call for change at the Memphis Police Department.

When the city of Memphis released the video on Jan. 27, Bianca Baker said she wept. Then anger welled up in her and intensified. 

“You wouldn’t treat a dog the way they treated this man,” she said. “I have sons. What got me was when he called out for his mother.”

For Baker, the video was quite excruciating to watch. For Jacqueline Jordan, it dredged up painful memories of her own son, Brandon K. Jordan, who was killed in Nashville five years ago. 

Brandon, then 22, was a student at Tennessee State University during the day and worked at FedEx at night. He didn’t know the killer and his two accomplices. They didn’t know him either.

He never saw them coming on the night he was gunned down or knew their intentions. The killer just fired two rounds and snuffed out Brandon’s life and ended his dream of becoming a sports commentator.

Now Jordan wonders if Brandon had called for her like Nichols had called for his mother, RowVaughn Wells, who along with her husband, Rodney Wells, shared their pain with the media. 

Nichols’s desperate cry for his mother was ignored by the five officers who pummeled him to death less than a hundred yards from his home, ironically, in the same subdivision where Jordan once lived.

Wells said she felt pain in her stomach around the time when Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin, and Tadarrius Bean roughhoused her 29-year-old son on Jan. 7. He died on Jan. 10. 

“Innocent people are always getting hurt,” said Jordan. “I know how Tyre’s mother feels. I am a mother too. Every day I think about my baby.”

MPD Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis terminated all five officers on Jan. 18. Each one faces second-degree murder; aggravated assault, acting in concert; two counts of aggravated kidnapping; two counts of official misconduct; and official oppression.

Baker is calling for a charge of first-degree murder for each ex-officer. “They beat him and kicked him like he was a roach,” she said. “I think they intentionally tried to kill him.”  

On Saturday, Jan. 28, Davis disbanded MPD’s Scorpion unit after calls for its disbandment rose to a feverish pitch. The ex-officers posted bail; they’re scheduled to be arraigned in mid-February.

Bennie Cobb, a retired captain with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office who has 37 years in law enforcement, said Davis had done the right thing. He, too, had called for MPD’s Scorpion unit to be disbanded.

“What you have is these guys under the color of law running and gunning and stopping people, trying to develop probable cause,” Cobb opined. “The stop itself was a pretext stop.”

Cobb explained that a pretext stop in law enforcement is not unusual. “You make the stop and then develop a probable cause afterward,” he said. “That’s what they were doing.” 

He didn’t want to see the video initially. But when he was called upon by the media to give his expert analysis on Nichols’s fatal beating, he looked carefully at the video and analyzed it.

The charges are warranted, said Cobb, owner of Eagle Eye Security Consultant and Training, where he trains police officers, security personnel, or interested citizens. 

He also teaches self-defense classes, handgun safety, and de-escalation techniques, which the ex-officers didn’t employ, he said, adding, “Not one time did I see any real resistance. I didn’t see him fighting back.” 

Cobb equates Nichols’s beatdown to a gang initiation when new members allow themselves to be “jumped in” as a sign of strength and courage. In her opinion, Jordan believes the ex-officers behaved like a pack of wolves.

Memphis set a record in 2021 with 346 murders, according to FBI data. Cobb said an enforcement unit is needed in such cases and believes the Scorpion unit will return most likely under another name.

“You have to have an enforcement unit with a clear mission statement, a strong supervisor, and address complaints as they come in,” he said, and added that Nichols’s death was a result of excessive force.