MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Memphis sixth officer was fired Friday after an internal police investigation found he violated multiple department policies, including rules on using a stun gun , during the violent arrest of Tire Nichols, they said.
Preston Hemphill had previously been suspended while under investigation for his role in the January 7 arrest of Nichols, who died three days later. Five Memphis officers have already been fired and charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death.
Hemphill was the third officer at a traffic stop that preceded the violent arrest, but that’s not where Nichols was hit.
In body camera footage from the first stop, Hemphill can be heard saying he stunned Nichols, saying, “I hope they kick his ass.”
Also on Friday, a Tennessee board suspended the paramedic licenses of two former Memphis Fire Department employees for failing to provide critical care.
The suspensions of EMT Robert Long and forward EMT JaMichael Sandridge build on authorities’ efforts to hold officers and other first responders accountable for the violence against Nichols, who was black. Six black officers were fired and charged with second degree murder and other counts. Another agent has been suspended. The Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into the videotaped attack.
Three firefighters were fired after Nichols’ death. Former Fire Lt. Michelle Whitaker was the third employee to be fired, but her license was not up for suspension Friday. The department said he remained in the engine with the driver during the Jan. 7 response to Nichols’ beating. He died on January 10.
Jeff Beaman, a member of the Board of Emergency Medical Services, said at Friday’s emergency meeting that other authorized personnel may have been on site – including a supervisor – who could have prevented the situation. which led to Nichols’ death. Beaman said he hopes the board will address this in the future.
State Department of Health attorney Matt Gibbs said the two suspensions are “not a final decision on this whole matter.”
Council members watched 19-minute surveillance video that showed Long and Sandridge failing to attend to Nichols, who was unable to sit on the side of the vehicle and fell to the ground several times. They also reviewed an affidavit from the Memphis Fire Department’s Deputy Chief of Emergency Services.
“The (State) Department (of Health) alleges that neither Mr. Sandridge nor Mr. Long were involved in the emergency care and treatment of patient TN, who was clearly in distress during the 19 minutes “, said Gibbs.
Board member Sullivan Smith said it was “obvious even to a layman” that Nichols “was in terrible distress and needed help”.
“And they didn’t provide that help,” Smith said. “They were his best sniper and they couldn’t help him.”
Fire Chief Gina Sweat said the department received a call from police after someone was pepper sprayed. When workers arrived at 8:41 p.m., Nichols was handcuffed to the ground and thrown into a police cruiser, the statement said.
Long and Sandridge, based on the nature of the call and information provided to them by police, “did not conduct a proper assessment of Mr. Nichols’ patient,” the statement said.
There was no immediate response to a voicemail requesting a comment left at a number listed for Long. A person who answered a call to a number listed for Sandridge declined to comment on the council’s decision.
An ambulance was called and arrived at 8:55 p.m., the statement said. An emergency room attended to Nichols and took him to the hospital at 9:08 p.m., 27 minutes after Long, Sandridge and Whitaker arrived, officials said.
An investigation found that all three violated multiple policies and protocols, the statement said, adding that “their actions or inactions at the scene that night did not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department.”
Nichols was beaten after police pulled him over for an alleged traffic violation. The video, released after pressure from Nichols’ family, shows officers restrained and repeatedly punching, kicking and beating him with a baton as he cries out for his mother.
Six of the officers involved were from the so-called Scorpion Unit, which targeted violent criminals in high-crime areas. Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said after the video was released that the unit had been disbanded.
The killing has sparked a new public debate about how police forces can use excessive force against black citizens, regardless of the race of the officers and those being monitored.
At Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday, calls for reform and justice were intertwined with grief at the loss of a man who is remembered as a son, brother, father and passionate photographer and skateboarder.
For more information on the Tire Nichols case, visit https://apnews.com/hub/tyre-nichols.
Adrian Sainz and Jonathan Mattise, Associated Press
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