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A sixth officer fired over beating of Tyre Nichols

Officials say a sixth Memphis officer has been fired over his role in the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols, who died in hospital.

February 5, 2023
5 February 2023

A sixth Memphis officer has been fired after an internal police investigation showed he violated multiple department policies in the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols, including rules surrounding the deployment of a stun gun.

Preston Hemphill had been suspended as he was investigated for his role in the January 7 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 Nichols’ death.

Nichols 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 officers who have been fired and charged are Black, as was 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.

On body camera 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.”

Also on 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. 

Board members watched 19 minutes of surveillance video that showed the employees failing 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.

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.”

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.

The killing has led to renewed public discussion of how police forces can treat Black residents with excessive violence, regardless of the race of both the police officers and those being policed.

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