Memphis officer Preston Hemphill relieved of duty after Tire Nichols’ death – NBC Chicago
A sixth Memphis Police Department officer has been disciplined for his involvement in the brutal beating and arrest of Tire Nichols, a department spokeswoman said Monday.
Officer Preston Hemphill was relieved of duty shortly after the Jan. 7 arrest of Nichols, who died three days later in a hospital, Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said. She did not reveal Hemphill’s role in the arrest.
Rudolph said information about disciplinary action taken against Hemphill was not immediately released because Hemphill was not fired and the department typically releases information about officers who are relieved of their duties after the end of a investigation.
Nichols’ family and others closely monitoring developments surrounding his brutal arrest and murder in Memphis have been awaiting news of further disciplinary action against officers who were at the scene but have not been fired or charged. ntts
Long-awaited video footage released Friday showed five Memphis Police Department officers using a stun gun, baton and their fists as they beat Nichols during a nighttime arrest on Jan. 7 after he was arrested for reckless driving. Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was heard calling for his mother and seen struggling with his injuries as he sat helplessly on the pavement. He died in hospital three days later.
The five officers were fired and charged with second-degree murder and other alleged offenses stemming from the arrest, which shocked many for its brutality and rekindled calls for police reform across the country.
Memphis police and the Shelby County District Attorney said an investigation into the actions of law enforcement officers who attended the scene of the arrest is ongoing. A Memphis police spokeswoman said Monday that information will be released as it becomes available.
In addition to the five officers, who chatted and worked for several minutes as Nichols sat on the ground in obvious pain, two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies were relieved of their duties without pay while their conduct is subject of an investigation. And, two employees of the Mermphis Fire Department were also terminated following Nichols’ arrest.
But the video showed other officers also responding to the scene. Memphis Police Superintendent Cerelyn “CJ” Davis wouldn’t say whether an officer who was involved in the initial trafficking and could be heard saying, “I hope they stomp on his ass” as Nichols fled was punished.
Calls for more officers to be fired or charged have been loud and persistent from the Nichols family, their attorneys and community activists who have been protesting peacefully in Memphis since the video was released. The video discussed the arrest of George Floyd in 2020 and the inability of officers to intervene.
On Saturday, Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press that the family would “continue to seek justice and have more officers arrested.”
“Questions were raised before the video came out, I raised those questions,” Wells said. “I just felt there were more than five officers there. Now five have been charged with murder because they were the main participants, but there were five or six other officers there who did nothing to help. They are therefore just as guilty as the officers who carried out the blows.
Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones said he watched the video with colleagues on Friday. He acknowledged on Monday that the Memphis police’s policies on non-assistance and de-escalation appeared to have been violated.
“When everyone has seen the video, we see several officers standing on their feet, when Mr. Nichols is in distress, it paints a totally different picture,” Jones said.
Jones said he thinks more officers should be disciplined.
“At this point what’s going to be helpful for this community is to see how quickly the chief of police deals with these other officers now that everyone has seen the tape and knows it wasn’t not just five officers who were on the scene the whole time,” Jones said.
The five fired officers were part of the so-called Scorpion Unit, which targeted violent criminals in certain areas. Davis, the police chief, said Saturday the unit had been disbanded.
Nichols’ funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at a church in Memphis.