Memphis police officer Preston Hemphill. [Source: ABC News]
Two additional Memphis police officers, including the white officer seen encountering Tyre Nichols during his traffic stop were relieved of duty and three Memphis Fire Department personnel were fired as the investigation into the Jan. 7 death of Nichols continues, investigators announced Monday.
Officer Preston Hemphill and an unidentified officer were relieved of their duty a day after the incident, Memphis PD revealed Monday.
The Memphis Fire Department also announced Monday that it fired two EMTs and a lieutenant who responded to the scene for failing to properly assess Nichols as he lay beaten on the ground.
Hemphill, who is white, allegedly deployed his Taser during the confrontation. In his own body camera video, Hemphill is seen chasing Nichols down the road, but then turns back to the scene of the initial traffic stop.
Hemphill was heard on his body camera video saying twice, “I hope they stomp his a–.”
Hemphill and the unidentified seventh officer haven’t been fired or charged, according to the Memphis PD.
“Officer Preston Hemphill and [the] other officer’s actions and inactions have been and continue to be the subject of this investigation since its inception on January 8, 2023,” the department said in a statement.
Five other officers, who are all Black, were previously fired and charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’ beating at a traffic stop. Nichols, 29, died three days later.
Hemphill’s attorney, Lee Gerald, said earlier that Hemphill was the third officer at Nichols’ initial traffic stop. The first body camera footage released Friday was from Hemphill’s device.
“As per departmental regulations Officer Hemphill activated his bodycam,” Gerald said earlier in a statement. “He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”
The Memphis FD revealed more details Monday about their members’ actions during the incident.
Memphis Fire Dispatch received a call from the Memphis PD at 8:31 p.m., to respond to a person pepper sprayed at the intersection of E. Raines Road and Ross Road, according to the fire department. An ambulance arrived at the scene and then directed to the second location where the cops encountered Nichols, the fire department said.
EMT-Basic Robert Long and EMT-Advanced JaMicheal Sandridge made the scene where Tyre Nichols was located handcuffed on the ground leaning against a police vehicle, while an unidentified ambulance driver and Lt. Michelle Whitaker remained inside the vehicle at approximately 8:41 p.m., the according to the fire department.
The department said the EMTs requested another ambulance to respond after their “initial interaction with Mr. Nichols,” and the additional ambulance didn’t arrive on the scene until 8:55 p.m.
“Our investigation has concluded that the two EMTs responded based on the initial nature of the call (person pepper sprayed) and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” Memphis FD said in a statement.
Long, Sandridge and Whitaker were all fired for violating “numerous MFD Policies and Protocols,” the department said.
“Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community,” Memphis FD said in a statement.
The three former fire department personnel haven’t been charged.
Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told ABC News Live on Friday night that he thinks “everyone [who] was active in the whole scene … should be charged.”
Attorneys for Nichols’ family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, said they were extremely disappointed that Hemphill was relieved of duty but not fired or charged. The lawyers are also questioning why the Memphis police did not immediately announce Hemphill’s name or that he was relieved of duty.
“Why is his identity and the role he played in Tyre’s death just now coming to light?” they said in a statement. “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. 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. The Memphis Police Department owes us all answers.”
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said in a statement Monday that the investigation was ongoing and more charges could be filed.
“We are looking at all individuals involved in the events leading up to, during, and after the beating of Tyre Nichols,” the district attorney’s office said. “This includes the officer present at the initial encounter who has not — so far — been charged, Memphis Fire Department personnel, and persons who participated in preparing documentation of the incident afterward.”
“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 office added.