Updated Jan 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Seventh Memphis police officer in Tyre Nichols case taken off force

Protesters block traffic as they rally against the fatal police assault of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., on Friday

Protesters block traffic in Memphis, Tenn., on Friday as they protest Tyre Nichols' death after police beat him. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Memphis Police Department confirmed Monday it has relieved from duty seven officers who were involved in a traffic stop on Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man​ who died days after being beaten during the Jan. 7 incident.

Driving the news: The department said in a statement the officers were relieved from duty on Jan. 8, the day after Nichols was beaten by officers and hospitalized, including the five who were each charged last week with second degree murder and other crimes.

  • The Memphis Police Department said Preston Hemphill, who is white, was among those relieved of duty in the aftermath because of his involvement in the initial traffic stop, during which he fired a taser gun.
  • The department said Hemphill's involvements and actions were still under investigation, though no charges had been made against him.
  • A total of seven officers have been relieved, but the department has named only six. On Monday, it referred to the seventh officer only as the "other officer."

Background: Former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, who are all Black men, were each also charged with aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

  • Hemphill had been hired in 2018, according to department spokesperson Christopher Williams.

What they're saying: "There are numerous charges still developing that are impending," the department's statement reads.

  • "We expect the next phase of personnel actions in the coming days," it continues.

The big picture: The Department of Justice and the FBI Memphis Field Office are investigating whether Nichols' civil rights were violated by police.

  • While the Shelby County medical examiner's office has not released an official cause of death, attorneys representing Nichols' family said last week that preliminary findings from an independent autopsy revealed he "suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."
  • After the release of the video footage, the Memphis Police Department announced it had permanently disbanded the special unit Scorpion in the wake of the murder charges brought against five of its members.

Zoom in: The Memphis Fire Department said in a statement on Monday that it fired two of its EMTs and a lieutenant following an internal investigation.

  • It found that the EMTs, Robert Long and JaMicheal Sandridge, and the lieutenant, Michelle Whitaker, "violated numerous" departmental policies and protocols.
  • The EMTs also "failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment" on Nichols when they found him handcuffed and leaning against a police car, the statement said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional background. It has also been corrected to say that Hemphill was relieved of duty at the time, not fired.

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