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Memphis Fire Official, 2 EMTs Terminated For Their Response To Tyre Nichols Scene

Memphis, TN – A Memphis Fire Department (MFD) lieutenant and two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were fired on Monday for failing to follow department policy and protocol when they responded to the scene after 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was beaten by police.

The incident began just before 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 after Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers observed Nichols weaving in and out of traffic and stopped his car at an intersection, according to one of four videos released by the police department on Jan. 27.

Nichols resisted arrest, was pepper sprayed, fled the scene, and was Tased by an officer, but videos showed none of that slowed him down.

Officers chased him down on foot and ultimately caught up with him.

Bodycam and aerial pole camera footage showed that when officers caught up with Nichols at the second scene, he resisted arrest and lunged for an officer’s holstered weapon.

The videos also showed that multiple officers brutally beat Nichols with their fists, one of them kicked him twice in the head, and another used his extendable baton to strike the suspect three times. Two officers arrived as he was being handcuffed and each kicked him in the abdomen.

He was propped up against a police car and kept falling over to the pavement as medical help arrived on the scene.

MFD First Responder company Engine 55 was dispatched about 8:32 p.m. to Ross Road and Raines for a suspect who had been pepper sprayed, WREG reported.

Engine 55 arrived at approximately 8:36 p.m. and officers directed them to the Nichols’ arrest scene nearby at Ross and Castlegate, according to a press release posted by the fire department on Jan. 30.

The department said that when they arrived on the scene, MFD Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker remained inside the truck while the EMTs, Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, responded to check on the person who had been pepper sprayed, WREG reported.

Bodycam videos from the scene showed that while the EMTs did assist Nichols in sitting back up several times when he flopped over, there was a delay in care for the obviously injured man and a general sense of a lack of urgency at the scene.

The lieutenant never got out of the fire truck.

The fire department launched its own investigation into the incident, WREG reported.

“Our investigation has concluded that the two EMT’s 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,” the fire department said in a statement, according to NBC News.

MFD said the EMTs requested an ambulance on the scene at 8:41 p.m. and it arrived nine minutes later.

Nichols was transported to St. Francis Hospital at 9:08 p.m. in what authorities have since said was critical condition, WREG reported.

He died in the hospital three days later from injuries sustained during his arrest.

The Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet ruled on Nichols’ official cause of death.

MFD said that Lt. Whitaker and EMTs Long and Sandridge violated multiple department policies and procedures with their handing of the call, NBC News reported.

“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,” fire officials said in a statement.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis fired five of the officers involved in the incident on Jan. 20, NBC News reported.

Chief Davis was quick to condemn the incident and said there was no video evidence to support the officers’ claims of Nichols’ reckless driving.

However, the police chief failed to explain that Memphis police cars are not equipped with dashcams and that bodycam video supported the officers’ version of how the traffic stop initially unfolded.

Now-former Memphis Police Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith were indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 26, NBC News reported.

Each of the officers, all of whom are black, was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault-acting in concert, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and one count of official oppression, the Commercial Appeal reported.

Each of the five officers posted a $250,000 bond and all of them were released from the Shelby County Jail within 24 hours of being arrested.

On Jan. 30, Memphis police officials announced on Monday that the officer who Tased 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during his arrest had been relieved of duty pending an investigation into the incident.

MPD identified the officer who Tased Nichols as MPD Officer Preston Hemphill and said he “was relieved when the other officers were relieved,” ABC News reported.

Officer Hemphill has not been terminated, nor has he been criminally charged thus far in connection with the arrest or death of Nichols.

Lee Gerald, attorney for Officer Hemphill, told reporters that his client was the third officer to arrive at the initial traffic stop, ABC News reported.

However, the videos released by the police department on Jan. 27 start with Officer Hemphill’s arrival and do not show what occurred prior to that.

“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.”

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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