State Watch

Memphis Fire Department terminates three officials who responded to Tyre Nichols arrest

The Memphis Fire Department on Monday announced that it has terminated two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and a lieutenant it determined violated “numerous” policies and protocols when they responded to the scene where Tyre Nichols had been handcuffed on the ground leaning against a police vehicle.

Fire Chief Gina Sweat said in a statement on the city’s website that an internal investigation had found that EMT-Basic Robert Long, EMT-Advanced JaMichael Sandridge and Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols.” Sweat said the fire dispatch officials had responded based on the initial nature of the call, which was that a person had been pepper-sprayed and information they were told at the scene.

In her statement, Sweat laid out specific times of their arrivals and actions by the dispatch officials, including arriving at the first scene at 8:32 p.m., only to be directed by police to another location.

Long and Sandridge made it to the second scene at 8:41 p.m. and found Nichols handcuffed on the ground against a police vehicle. Whitaker remained in a fire department vehicle with the driver, according to the statement.

“After their initial interaction with Mr. Nichols, they requested an ambulance to respond. Emergency Unit 28 was dispatched at 8:46 p.m., arrived on the scene at 8:55 p.m., initiated patient care and transported Mr. Nichols to St. Francis Hospital at 9:08 p.m.,” the statement read.

“After concluding our internal investigation, it was determined that EMT-B Long, EMT-A Sandridge and Lt. Whitaker violated numerous MFD Policies and Protocols. As a result, EMT-B Long, EMT-A Sandridge and Lt. Whitaker have been terminated from the Memphis Fire Department,” Sweat said in the statement without offering additional details of what protocols were violated.

Earlier Monday, the Memphis Police Department announced it had relieved a sixth police officer in connection with beating Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after being beaten by five police officers following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.

Preston Hemphill, who was hired in 2018, “was relieved of duty at the beginning of the investigation involving Tyre Nichols’ death, with the other officers,” a spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department told The Hill in an emailed statement.

The Associated Press reported Monday that disciplinary action taken against Hemphill, who is white, was not immediately released to the public because he was not fired. The department usually releases information about officers who are relieved of duty once an investigation concludes.

Since Memphis authorities on Friday released graphic footage of the Jan. 7 traffic stop of Nichols, many prominent figures inside and outside Congress have made a renewed effort to pass police reform legislation. 

The five Memphis police officers, who are all Black, were seen in the footage deploying pepper spray and a stun gun against Nichols and repeatedly punching and kicking him as he was yelling for his mother. Those five police officers, who were fired from the department last week, have been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses in relation to the incident.

In a statement, the Shelby County district attorney’s office said that more charges could be filed in its investigation into Nichols’s death. 

“The current charges do not preclude us from adding additional charges as more information is presented. We are looking at all individuals involved in the events leading up to, during, and after the beating of Tyre Nichols,” the district attorney’s office said. “This includes the officer present at the initial encounter who has not— so far—been charged, Memphis Fire Department personnel, and persons who participated in preparing documentation of the incident afterward.” 

Tags Memphis Memphis Police Department police brutality Tennessee Tyre Nichols

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