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7th officer relieved of duty and 3 first responders fired after Tyre Nichols' death

Protesters march on Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., over the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police.
Gerald Herbert
/
AP
Protesters march on Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., over the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police.

Updated January 30, 2023 at 8:21 PM ET

The Memphis Police Department has confirmed that a seventh officer has been disciplined as part of the investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols, coming just hours after the department revealed that a sixth officer was facing discipline for the incident.

The city's fire department also announced Monday evening that two of its EMTs and a lieutenant were terminated following their own internal investigation into the death of Nichols.

Nichols was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving on Jan. 7. He was seen on police video being brutally beaten by police officers and died three days later in the hospital.

Five officers involved were fired and charged with murder.

On Monday, the department confirmed that a sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, had been "relieved of duty," according to spokesperson Kimberly Elder. Hemphill was hired in 2018. A seventh officer, whom the department did not identify, was also suspended. All seven officers were initially suspended on Jan. 8, police said.

It's not clear why the city waited until Monday to reveal the suspensions of Hemphill and the seventh officer. Hemphill has not been charged related to the beating and subsequent death of Nichols.

Also on Monday, the Memphis Fire Department said EMTs Robert Long and JaMicheal Sandridge, along with Lt. Michelle Whitaker, were terminated from the department after an investigation revealed the three "violated numerous MFD Policies and Protocols."

JaMicheal Sandridge (left), Robert Long and Lt. Michelle Whitaker were terminated following the Memphis Fire Department's own internal investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols.
/ City of Memphis
/
City of Memphis
JaMicheal Sandridge (left), Robert Long and Lt. Michelle Whitaker were terminated following the Memphis Fire Department's own internal investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols.

Police announced the first five officers' termination on Jan. 20.

Hemphill and the seventh officer are suspended from duty, pending an investigation. Department spokesperson Christopher Williams could not say whether Hemphill is still receiving his salary.

Hemphill's attorney, Lee Gerald, said Hemphill was one of the three officers at the site where police initially pulled Nichols over. He said body camera footage that the city of Memphis released and labeled "Video 1" came from Hemphill.

"As per departmental regulations Officer Hemphill activated his bodycam. He was never present at the second scene," Gerald said. "He is cooperating with officials in this investigation."

Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, attorneys for the Nichols family, issued a statement earlier in the day criticizing the police department.

"The news today from Memphis officials that Officer Preston Hemphill was reportedly relieved of duty weeks ago, but not yet terminated or charged, is extremely disappointing," the lawyers said. "Why is his identity and the role he played in Tyre's death just now coming to light? 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."

Hemphill's body camera shows him using a Taser on Nichols

Hemphill's body camera footage shows the chaotic traffic stop as Nichols is pulled from his vehicle and brought to the ground. Hemphill's body-worn camera captures the officer with a Taser in his hand, which he shortly thereafter uses on Nichols as he gets up to flee.

Hemphill is also heard saying, "I hope they stomp his ass" to one of the officers in reference to Nichols.

The video does not show Hemphill's face. It's unclear where or when this unnamed seventh officer came into the scene on Jan. 7.

The five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. — have all been charged with one count of second-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault-acting in concert, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and one count of official oppression. They are all out on bail.

Nichols and the five charged former officers are Black. Hemphill is white.

Prosecutors are still investigating

Additional charges against other officers on scene that day could be coming as the investigation into Nichols' death continues, according to the Shelby County District Attorney's Office.

The district attorney's office says it's looking at all individuals in the events leading up to, during and after the beating of Nichols, including Memphis Fire Department personnel, and people who participated in preparing documentation of the incident afterward.

Two Memphis Fire Department employees, who were not identified, but who were "involved in the initial patient care" of Nichols, were relieved of duty earlier this month. It's not clear if they are among those whose termination was announced Monday.

The district attorney's office is asking for the public's patience as their work continues.

"The DA's Office worked extraordinarily swiftly but thoroughly to charge those whose offenses were plain and clear and directly contributed to the death of Mr. Nichols, but in no way is this investigation over," the district attorney's office said in a statement. "While we are committed to transparency, we cannot comment on the details of an ongoing investigation or give previews of what charges we may or may not bring. Our goal remains the same: to seek justice for Tyre Nichols and hold all who contributed to his death accountable."

Protests continue in Memphis

The public's response to Nichols' death and the subsequent release of the videos depicting his violent beating has largely been peaceful.

For a fourth straight day, demonstrators gathered in Memphis. A couple dozen gathered, a crowd size likely impacted by temperatures in the 30s and an encroaching ice storm warning from the National Weather Service. The location was symbolic — Shelby Farms, a large green space in East Memphis that Nichols was known to frequent to enjoy sunsets.

They called for police reforms such an end to pretextual traffic stops and an outside, independent review of operations at the Memphis Police Department.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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