MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A 22-year-old black man said in an interview that he was assaulted by a group of Memphis police officers that included the five former officers accused of the fatal beating of Tire Nichols.

Monterrious Harris said he was beaten three days before Nichols was attacked by some of the same officers who were with the now disbanded Scorpion unit.

He said the men dressed in black who ordered him out of his car on January 4 did not identify themselves and that he had no idea they were part of the special crime-fighting squad that would be implicated in Nichols’ death.

“They were trying to get me out of the car, but my car was locked,” Harris said this week. “I thought someone was trying to steal my car. I didn’t know they were official.»

Harris said he plans to sue the city and its police department on Saturday in US District Court in Memphis.

Harris’ attorney, Robert Spence, said Harris called him about a week after Nichols’ death.

An affidavit of complaint filed Jan. 4 by the arresting officers revealed that the five officers involved in the beating of Nichols were part of the nine-member team that arrested Harris. The document does not indicate whether any officers were involved in a physical altercation.

City officials, the police department and attorneys for the five former officers did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Harris said he was sitting in his car at Twin Oak Apartments when several men in ski masks suddenly appeared with guns drawn.

One of them struck the window of his Chrysler 300 and another blinded him with a flashlight as other officers surrounded his vehicle, Harris said.

“Get out of the car, or I’m going to shoot,” Harris said one of the men told him.

Harris said he was terrified and put his car in reverse and stepped on the accelerator in an attempt to flee. But he ended up hitting a wall.

«At that point, I got out of the car,» Harris said.

The men in black approached him and ordered him to raise his hands, he said. But before he could do that, they hit him on the concrete and started punching him in the face, he said.

“You almost got your head blown off,” Harris said one of the men told him.

Harris was arrested and taken to jail, where a nurse determined he needed medical attention, which he received at a hospital, she said. Regional One Health did not return phone calls requesting Harris’ medical records and details of his injuries Thursday. Spence said he asked the hospital for Harris’ medical records, but he hasn’t received them yet.

The affidavit names the five former officers involved in Nichols’ case: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr. The police department fired all five after Nichols died of his injuries. the 10th of January.

Five Memphis police officers have been fired in connection with a traffic stop that led to the death of Tire Nichols. Clockwise from top left: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr.Memphis Police Department via AP

All five are charged with second degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault. Like Nichols, they are black.

Scorpion’s team, according to the affidavit, was conducting an investigation at the apartment complex when Harris «began to have his tires screeching» and drove toward officers at high speed before stopping.

Smelling marijuana, an officer asked Harris to roll down his window, according to the affidavit. Instead, Harris reversed his car, abandoned the vehicle and tried to flee, the document says.

Harris, who was convicted of a felony in Arkansas two years ago for running from police in a manner that could cause significant injury or death, had a 9mm pistol, marijuana and the anxiety medication Xanax, according to the statement. sworn. Officers also found a black holster and live magazine cartridges in his car, he says.

Spence said Harris is charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, burglary, evading arrest, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and other charges.

Harris insisted in the interview that the car did not smell of marijuana and that the gun was not his. He also said that he considers himself very lucky not to have suffered the same fate as Nichols.

Image: Monterrious Harris.
“I thought someone was trying to steal my car. I didn’t know they were officers,» Harris said of his encounter with the Scorpion unit.Brandon Dill for NBC News

“I thought someone was trying to steal my car. I didn’t know they were officers,” Harris said of his encounter with the Scorpion unit.

“I really felt that God was with me,” he said.

Their encounter occurred three days before Nichols ran into a group of Memphis police officers during a traffic stop on January 7 and was beaten to death.

The five charged officers were members of Scorpion, or Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, an anti-violence unit launched in November 2021 as the city’s homicide rate was skyrocketing and the community was calling for action.

A harrowing video of Nichols, 29, being beaten and crying for his mother was released last week, sparking outrage and condemnation across the country from the White House on down.

Memphis police officers surround Tire Nichols as he lies on the ground on January 7.
Memphis police officers surround Tire Nichols as he lies on the ground on January 7.city ​​of memphis

Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies were also relieved of their duties pending an administrative investigation into Nichols’ death, Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. Announced.

Two other Memphis men, Glenn Harris and Demarius Hervey, told NBC News this week that they experienced a violent encounter with former officer Martin in August 2020.

An Aug. 2, 2020 affidavit of complaint signed by Officer E. Martin said Harris and Hervey were arrested after Harris crashed the black Nissan Maxima he was driving and began a brief foot pursuit.

Deon J. Hampton reported from Memphis and Corky Siemaszko reported from New York City.