Sixth officer fired following beating death of Tyre Nichols

The sixth of seven Memphis police officers connected to the death of Tyre Nichols was terminated Friday after being “departmentally charged” with numerous policy violations that included the alleged use of a Taser.

Following the firing of officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith from the Memphis Police Department after an internal probe, the MPD can now count Preston Hemphill as the sixth former officer linked to the Jan. 7 traffic stop that led to Nichols’ death.

In a statement issued Friday by MPD’s Commander of Public Information Major Karen Rudolph, the department said, “On today’s date, the Memphis Police Department reached an additional finding in the administrative investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Tyre Nichols. After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we determined that Officer Preston violated multiple department policies.”

MPD listed Hemphill’s violations as:

  1. Personal Conduct
  2. Truthfulness
  3. Compliance with Regulations to wit: Conducted Energy Weapon (TASER)
  4. Compliance with Regulations to wit: Uniforms (issued equipment)
  5. Inventory and Processing Recovered Property

Details of the incident recounted that Nichols had been pulled over for an initial traffic stop only to flee the scene before getting stopped at a second location at which the five previously named officers were said to have assaulted the 29-year-old to the point he later succumbed to those injuries in the hospital.

Hemphill’s attorney Lee Gerald had verified that the now-former officer was the one whose body cam footage had been released showing the first altercation between Nichols and the police. It was during that initial traffic stop that Hemphill allegedly used a TASER on Nichols when he attempted to flee.

Hemphill was not present at the second stop, as the Associated Press reported.

The officers of MPD were not the only ones facing consequences for their believed roles in the death of Nichols as two Shelby County sheriffs had been relieved of duty, but not charged. Furthermore, EMTs Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Lt. Michelle Whitaker of the Memphis Fire Department were also terminated for failing “to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols” at the scene.

Fire Chief Gina Sweat had said in a statement, “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. After their initial interaction with Mr. Nichols, they requested an ambulance to respond.”

“Their actions or inactions on the scene that night,” Sweat’s statement continued, noting Whitaker remained in the fire truck, “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.”

Shelby County District Attorney’s office provided a statement to ABC10 that read, “We are in the stage of our investigation where we are looking into all matters including the actions of Officer Preston Hemphill and others who were on the scene.”

Additionally, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland (D) in a Friday email called for independent investigations: “To honor Tyre and help make sure this type of tragedy does not happen again, the City of Memphis has engaged the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (‘COPS’), through the Collaborative Reform Initial Technical Assistant Center (‘CRI-TAC’) program, and the International Association of Police Chiefs (IACP) to conduct a review of the Memphis Police Department. The independent, external review by these agencies will include an assessment of MPD’s Special Units and use of force policies.”

Unlike the other five officers, Hemphill has not been criminally charged in relation to Nichols’ death.

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