The white Memphis police officer who was among the first to engage Tyre Nichols, Preston Hemphill, was terminated from his position as of Friday night, according to a statement released by the Memphis Police Department.
On January 7, Hemphill reportedly used his Taser on a 29-year-old he had encountered during a traffic check. Hemphill chases Nichols down the road in his own body camera footage before returning to the scene of the traffic stop.
On the body camera footage, Hemphill can be heard saying, “I hope they stomp his a—,” twice. According to footage from officers’ body cameras, a gang of cops confronted Nichols later that night and pepper sprayed and assaulted him. Three days later, Nichols passed away in the hospital.
Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith were dismissed and charged with second-degree murder after they were shown on camera beating Nichols. They’re all people of African descent.
A statement released by the Memphis Police Department on Friday read, “after a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the event, we decided that Officer Preston Hemphill violated many department policies.”
The department claimed that these infractions involved both personal conduct and dishonesty as well as the improper use of a Taser. Hemphill’s lawyer, Lee Gerald, also verified his client’s dismissal from the police department.
While we are disappointed by this turn of events, Preston Hemphill will remain cooperative with authorities as they investigate Tyre Nichols’ death, Gerald stated in a statement. Hemphill has not been arrested for the murder of Nichols.
— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) February 3, 2023
The traffic stop also involved a seventh officer who has yet to be identified and who has been placed on administrative leave. More details will be released soon, the agency stated, but for now, it can be said that “several MPD officers are under investigation for departmental policy violations” in connection with Nichols’ arrest and death.
The Memphis Fire Department said earlier in the week that it had fired three employees who had responded to the Nichols beating in an ambulance. The fire department stated that they fired EMTs Robert Long and JaMicheal Sandridge for failing “to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols” at the scene. The first MFD officer on the scene, Lt. Michelle Whitaker, was also terminated.
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