MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis, its police chief, and several officers including one charged in the Tyre Nichols killing have been served with a $3 million lawsuit by a business owner who claims police illegally searched his Summer Avenue auto shop last year.
The case goes back to Sept. 22, 2022, when MPD officers working with the Organized Crime Unit searched Sal’s Tire and Auto Repair. Investigators said they found stolen cars and auto parts, which they said was evidence of a chop shop operation.
The owner, Salvador Guevara-Reyes, was initially charged with theft of property and violation of the chop shop law, though court records show those charges were dropped by prosecutors in February.
According to a lawsuit filed Wednesday, officers that day entered Sal’s without probable cause or a search warrant. They then allegedly detained employees and mechanics for an hour, and seized thousands of dollars in property and equipment.
“It was treated like a major crime scene,” said attorney Forrest Craig, who is representing Sal’s Tire and Auto Repair. “There were at least 10-20 officers there and they were going through everything.”
When a search warrant was presented to the owner’s daughter several hours later, it allegedly only applied to one address, out of several buildings the business occupies that were searched, according to plaintiffs.
Guevara-Reyes was arrested and taken to jail. The officer who allegedly transported him was Tadarius Bean — one of five former MPD officers charged with second-degree murder and federal civil rights violations in the death of Tyre Nichols.
Six other officers are named in the lawsuit, which makes note that the Scorpion Unit, of which Bean was a member, was disbanded due to allegations of constitutional violations.
“They disbanded the Scorpion Unit and it’s because of disregarding people’s constitutional rights,” Craig said.
The suit also alleges that MPD targeted the business owners because they were Hispanic.
“It’s one of those situations where people don’t believe it can happen until it happens to you and once it does it changes you for the rest of your life,” Craig said. “They do not trust MPD. They tell me when they drive, they are always in the rearview mirror to see if someone is following them.”
After more than 20 years in business, their focus is now on justice.
“They have suffered real impact,” Craig said. “That’s one reason why they want to go too hard is for people to know that it’s not just an innocent when police show up and it can have a profound effect on that day and the rest of your life.”
The City of Memphis on Thursday declined to respond to pending litigation.