Memphis police fire sixth officer connected to beating death of black motorist, Tyre Nichols, 29, after a traffic stop
Preston Hemphill became sixth Memphis police officer fired after officer beat Tyre Nichols to death
Hemphill had been suspended on Jan. 30, as he was investigated for his role in the arrest of Nichols
Nichols was beaten after police stopped him for what they said was a traffic violation on Jan. 7
Video released after pressure from Nichols’ family shows officers holding him down and repeatedly punching, kicking and striking him with a baton as he screamed for his mother
He never recovered and died in a hospital three days later
Five Memphis officers, all black, have already been fired and charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death
Critics said the dept was protecting Hemphill, who is white
Tennessee board suspended emergency medical technician licenses of two former Memphis Fire Dept employees
EMT Robert Long and advanced EMT JaMichael Sandridge had been fired for failing to render critical care to Nichols
Former Lt. Michelle Whitaker is the third MFD employee fired Friday, but her license was not considered for suspension
Another Memphis officer was fired Friday after an internal police investigation showed he violated multiple department policies in the violent and fatal arrest of motorist Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 7.
Officer Preston Hemphill was earlier suspended as he was investigated for his role in the brutal arrest of Nichols, who died in a hospital three days later. Five Memphis officers have already been fired and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Nichols.
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man was beaten after police stopped him for what they said was a traffic violation.
Video released after pressure from Nichols’ family shows officers holding him down and repeatedly punching, kicking and striking him with a baton as he screamed for his mother.
The five officers who have been fired and charged are Black like Nichols. Hemphill is white. One other officer has been suspended, but has not been identified.
Hemphill was the third officer at the traffic stop that preceded the arrest but was not at the location where Nichols was beaten after he ran away.
Bodycam footage from the initial stop, Hemphill is heard saying that he used a stun gun against Nichols and declaring, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
Along with breaking rules regarding the use of a stun gun, Hemphill was also fired for violations of personal conduct and truthfulness, police said in a statement.
Police announced Hemphill’s suspension on Jan. 30, but they said Hemphill was actually suspended shortly after the arrest.
Memphis Police Dept. spokeswoman Karen Rudolph has said information about Hemphill’s suspension was not immediately released because Hemphill had not been fired.
The department generally gives out information about an officer’s punishment only after a department investigation into misconduct ends, Rudolph said.
After the suspension was announced, lawyers for Nichols’ family questioned why the department did not disclose Hemphill’s discipline earlier.
“We have asked from the beginning that the Memphis Police Department be transparent with the family and the community, this news seems to indicate that they haven’t risen to the occasion,” attorneys Ben Crump and Anthony Romanucci said in a statement. “It certainly begs the question why the white officer involved in this brutal attack was shielded and protected from the public eye, and to date, from sufficient discipline and accountability.”
After releasing a video on Jan. 27, showing the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, the Memphis Police Dept. disbanded the Scorpions, the special police unit that counted among its members the men accused of his murder.
Also Friday, a Tennessee board suspended the emergency medical technician licenses of two former Memphis Fire Department employees for failing to render critical care.
The suspensions of EMT Robert Long and advanced EMT JaMichael Sandridge build on efforts by authorities to hold officers and other first responders accountable for the violence against Nichols. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights probe into the attack that was captured on video.
Three fire department employees were fired after Nichols died.
Former fire department Lt. Michelle Whitaker was the third employee let go, but her license was not considered for suspension Friday. The department has said she remained in the engine with the driver during the response to Nichols’ beating.
Emergency Medical Services Board member Jeff Beaman said during Friday’s emergency meeting that there may have been other licensed personnel on scene, including a supervisor, who could have prevented the situation that led to the death of Nichols.
Beaman said he hopes the board addresses those in the future.
Matt Gibbs, an attorney for the state Department of Health, said the two suspensions were “not final disposition of this entire matter.”
Board members watched 19 minutes of surveillance video that showed Long and Sandridge as they failed to care for Nichols, who couldn’t stay seated upright against the side of the vehicle, laying prone on the ground multiple times. They also considered an affidavit by the Memphis Fire Department’s EMS deputy chief.
“The (state) Department (of Health) alleges that neither Mr. Sandridge nor Mr. Long engaged in emergency care and treatment to patient T.N., who was clearly in distress during the 19 minute period,” Gibbs said.
Board member Sullivan Smith said it was “obvious to even a lay person” that Nichols “was in terrible distress and needed help.”
“And they failed to provide that help,” Smith said. “They were his best shot, and they failed to help.”
Fire Chief Gina Sweat has said the department received a call from police after someone was pepper-sprayed. When the workers arrived at 8:41 p.m., Nichols was handcuffed on the ground and slumped against a squad car, the statement said.
Long and Sandridge, based on the nature of the call and information they were told by police, “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” the statement said.
An ambulance was called, and it arrived at 8:55 p.m., the statement said. An emergency unit cared for Nichols and left for a hospital with him at 9:08 p.m., which was 27 minutes after Long, Sandridge and Whitaker arrived, officials said.
An investigation determined that all three violated multiple policies and protocols, the statement said, adding that “their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department.”
The fired officers involved were part of the so-called Scorpion unit, which targeted violent criminals in high-crime areas. Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said after the video’s release that the unit has been disbanded.
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