Seventh Memphis police officer relieved of duty over fatal Tyre Nichols traffic stop
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Authorities announced that a total of seven Memphis Police officers were relieved of duty this month after police officers brutally beat, Tased and pepper sprayed 29-year-old Tyre Nichols after pulling him over.
The seven officers include the five who were fired and charged with murder. Nichols died on Jan. 10, just three days after the traffic stop.
Officer Preston Hemphill, was placed on leave, a spokesperson for MPD confirmed Monday to The Commercial Appeal, part of the USA TODAY Network. The spokesperson confirmed Hemphill, who was hired by MPD in 2018, has been on leave since the beginning of the investigation.
The seventh officer’s identity has not been released, but the “actions and inactions” of Hemphill and another's actions “have been and continue to be the subject of this investigation since its inception on January 8, 2023," according to a news release from the police department Monday.
In its initial narrative, the Memphis Police Department said the officers involved had been relieved of duty but did not say how many officers that was.
Hemphill has not been charged with a crime.
News of Hemphill being placed on leave comes after the city released graphic footage of five officers beating Nichols on Jan. 7. Nichols was hospitalized after the assault and died three days later.
Hemphill's body cam footage shows initial stop, attorney says
Hemphill's defense attorney, Lee Gerald, said his client was the third officer at the initial stop of Nichols.
"Video one is his body cam footage," Gerald said in an email statement. "He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation."
In the body camera footage that was taken from Hemphill's point of view, according to Gerald, officers can be heard yelling at Nichols to get out of his car before they are seen forcibly removing him from the car.
Officers hold Nichols down and are hit by pepper spray that was deployed by another officer. The camera shakes as Nichols runs and an officer, whom Gerald identified as Hemphill, shoots at him with a taser.
After a brief chase, Hemphill, who is white, stops running after Nichols, turns back and can be heard saying, "I hope they stomp his ass."
Demonstrators outside a Memphis Police Department precinct Sunday demanded the officer who's seen firing what appears to be a Taser in the video be identified and charged.
SCORPION Unit disbanded
Gerald and the department did not respond The Commercial Appeal's question as to whether Hemphill was part of the SCORPION Unit, a specialized unit that focused on concentrating officers in areas with high crime. The five former officers who have been charged in Nichols' death were on assignment with the unit on Jan. 7. The unit is now permanently disbanded and under investigation.
Five officers arrested, charged with murder
Five former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. were fired Jan. 20 as a result of MPD's internal investigation into the events that preceded Nichols' death. They were indicted about a week later and now face second-degree murder charges, along with assault and kidnapping charges.
Three Memphis Fire Department personnel fired
The Memphis Fire Department fired emergency medical technicians, Robert Long and JaMicheal Sandridge, and fire engine driver Lt. Michelle Whitaker for failing to provide Nichols an "adequate" assessment when they were called to provide medical aid after he was beaten by police officers, the department said Monday.
Criminal charges have not been filed against the firefighters.
Activists call for more officers to be fired
The NAACP Memphis Branch called for all law enforcement officers and first responders who were involved in the traffic stop to be terminated and prosecuted.
“If you were an officer or first responder and you sat there and watched this young man die and you did nothing to help resuscitate him, you did nothing to give him aid, you’re just as culpable as the people who beat him down and killed him,” President Van Turner said at a news conference Sunday. “We want justice, and we want them brought to justice.”
Other officers, first responders under investigation
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner launched an internal investigation to determine whether two of his deputies who arrived on scene after the beating violated department policies. Both have been "relieved of duty pending the outcome of this administrative investigation.”
Two Memphis firefighters were also "relieved of duty" pending an internal investigation into their actions after the stop, a fire department spokeswoman said. That investigation is expected to be completed this week.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis said last week more officers are under investigation and the department's specialized units are being subject to a "complete and independent review."
The FBI is also investigating the circumstances of Nichols' death.
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Contributing: Laura Testino, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Lucas Finton is a news reporter with The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached at Lucas.Finton@commercialappeal.com and followed on Twitter @LucasFinton.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Tyre Nichols: Memphis police relieve seventh officer over fatal stop