Another Memphis police officer terminated, two first responders suspended in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death
By Nick Valencia, Emma Tucker, Paradise Afshar and Melissa Alonso, CNN
Another Memphis police officer has been fired and two first responders had their licenses suspended following the violent arrest and death of Tyre Nichols last month, officials announced Friday.
The former police officer, Preston Hemphill, was relieved of his duties for violating multiple departmental policies, including personal conduct and truthfulness, the Memphis Police Department said in a news release.
Hemphill, who was hired by the department in March 2018, was fired on January 30, police said. The former officer was seen on body camera footage tasing Nichols and later heard saying, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
An attorney for Hemphill, Lee Gerald, told CNN in a statement that Hemphill does not agree with the department’s decision to fire him, but the former officer will “continue to cooperate with all investigating agencies into the death of Tyre Nichols.”
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Division announced earlier Friday that it had suspended two first responders after they failed to render emergency care and treatment the night that Nichols encountered law enforcement.
The medical services division said Robert Long and JaMichael Lamar Sandridge failed to provide any basic emergency care for 19 minutes despite Nichols “exhibiting clear signs of distress such as the inability to remain in a seated posture and laying prone on the ground multiple times.”
Long and Sandridge arrived at the scene around 8:41 p.m. the night Nichols encountered police, according to the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Division. The board said both first responders failed to perform tasks such as obtaining vital signs and conducting a full head-to-toe examination during the 19-minute period.
“Vital signs play a key role in establishing a baseline for the patient from which deterioration from medical conditions can be measured,” the board said in their reports.
Sandridge had been licensed in the state since November 2015, and Long had been licensed since May 2020.
The board ordered that Long’s and Sandridge’s licenses are hereby “summarily suspended” effective immediately and will remain in place until the conclusion of a contested case hearing against both Sandridge and Long, or until otherwise ordered by the board.
Sandridge and Long have until 5 p.m. on February 10 make a request to bring their case before the board at an informal conference, the decision says.
Five Black former officers are due to be arraigned February 17 after they were fired January 20 in connection with Nichols’ death, then indicted on seven counts each, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping in possession of a deadly weapon, official misconduct and official oppression, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced January 27.
Two more officers — one White and one still not publicly identified — who were put on leave January 8 remain under internal investigation, police said.
Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was hospitalized after a January 7 traffic stop and “confrontation” with Memphis police that family attorneys have called a savage beating. Nichols died from his injuries on January 10, three days after the arrest, authorities said.
The police department is conducting an administrative investigation into the encounter, and multiple officers are under investigation for departmental policy violations, the agency said Friday.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced Friday that the police department will undergo an independent review by the Department of Justice and the International Association of Police Chiefs in the wake of Nichols’ death.
Strickland said the review is a way to “honor Tyre and help make sure this type of tragedy does not happen again.”
“While we no doubt have a long way to go on the road to healing, hopefully through our actions, citizens will see we are working to be better and that we are heading down the right path,” Strickland said.
While the five former Memphis officers were swiftly charged with second-degree murder less than three weeks after Nichols’ death last month, the rest of the investigation is expected to take much longer, Erica Williams, a spokesperson for the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, told CNN Friday.
The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office said its waiting on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conclude its investigation before the independent Justice Unit can begin its review and give recommendations on other potential charges in the case.
The initial charges by the DA were swift because “the focus was on the five officers” whose actions were “plain and clear,” Williams told CNN.
“The investigations normally take a very long time,” Williams said. “I don’t want to say people got spoiled with the swift charges. The rest of this will take much longer.”
The city of Memphis last week released body-camera and surveillance footage showing what Mulroy said is “the relevant parts” of the initial stop and the beating at a second location. But up to 20 hours of additional footage related to the encounter has yet to be released, which could play a key investigative role, Mulroy said Wednesday.
The released video has contradicted what officers said happened in the initial police report filed after Nichols’ beating. And potential charges of “false reporting” related to the initial police report are being investigated, Williams told CNN Wednesday.
Days after the release of public body camera and surveillance footage of the encounter, District Attorney Mulroy told CNN, “We are looking at everybody who had any kind of involvement in this incident.”
All the fired officers and one still on leave were part of the force’s SCORPION unit — created to tackle rising crime in the city and disbanded amid national outcry following Nichols’ death — the department has confirmed.
None of the fired officers had previously been disciplined for excessive force, though several had received written reprimands or short suspensions for violating department policies, their personnel files show.
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CNN’s Sara Smart contributed to this report.