7 Memphis Police Officers ‘Relieved of Duty’ in Tyre Nichols Death
The Memphis Police Department announced on Monday it has suspended seven officers total thus far in connection with the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols.
According to a department spokesman, via The New York Times, Preston Hemphill — the only officer named on Monday — was placed on administrative leave at the same time five other officers were suspended (the five were later fired). A seventh officer was also relieved of duty and three Memphis Fire Department personnel who responded to the beating have been fired, according to CNN. It’s unclear what Hemphill’s involvement was in the fatal traffic stop.
“Officer Hemphill is relieved of duty. This is an ongoing investigation,” a department spokesperson told NBC News, adding that Hemphill was hired in 2018.
On Jan. 7 during a traffic stop, Memphis police officers kicked Tyre Nichols in the head, hit him with a baton, doused him with pepper spray, and beat him while he cried out for his mother, leading to his death on Jan. 10.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith were fired earlier this month for their actions, which were deemed “excessive” in nature. Last week, all five were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and official misconduct and oppression for their alleged roles in the death of Nichols.
Officer Hemphill’s lawyer, Lee Gerald, said in a statement via The Times that one of the four tapes released on Friday, known as Video One, came from Hemphill’s body camera.
“He was never present at the second scene” — where Nichols fled and when police caught up to him and continued to severely beat him — Gerald said of Hemphill. He added that his client “is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”
A Times analysis of the video footage from Jan. 7 found that officers ordered Nichols to obey at least 71 commands. The officers’ contradictory demands made it impossible for Nichols to abide: from asking him to show his hands even while they were restraining him, to get on the ground even though he was already on the ground, to telling him to reposition himself, even when he did not have the ability to do so because they had control of his movements.
In the wake of 29-year-old skateboarder and father Nichol’s death, The Scorpion Unit, of which the five officers who have been charged were members, has been disbanded. Rallies were held around the U.S. over the weekend, while the community and family call for sweeping police reform.
This story was updated on Jan. 30 at 7:06 p.m. to include a seventh officer being “relieved of duty” and three fire department personnel being fired.
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