Tyre Nichols death: Three Memphis fire department staff fired

Tyre Nichols was fatally beaten by police nearby his home  (DEANDRE NICHOLS via REUTERS)
Tyre Nichols was fatally beaten by police nearby his home (DEANDRE NICHOLS via REUTERS)

Three firefighters who responded to the fatal police confrontation with Tyre Nichols have been dismissed, after investigators found he was beaten and left handcuffed on the ground without medical aid for nearly 15 minutes.

Mr Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was beaten by law enforcement officers in Memphis on the night of January 7 after being pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving.

Horrifying footage of the incident released last Friday shows Mr Nichols being kicked, pepper-sprayed and hit with a baton by police officers. He died in hospital three days later.

According to a Memphis Fire Department statement, emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge failed to assess Nichols’ condition when they arrived, while fire Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker, who drove them to the scene, remained in her vehicle.

An internal review of their conduct found that all three fire department employees “violated numerous (fire department) policies and protocols,” the agency said in a statement issued by Fire Chief Gina Sweat.

The police officers take turns striking Mr Nichols (AP)
The police officers take turns striking Mr Nichols (AP)

The terminations came as Memphis Police Department revealed that seven of its officers had been relieved of duty for their roles in the confrontation that led to Mr Nichols’ death on January 10.

That included five officers who were dismissed from the force and charged last week with murder.

The five officers charged in the case are also black.

In a video clip of the moment Mr Nichols was attacked by police, the officers are heard screaming profanities at him while they beat him for three minutes.

They do not attempt to help him as he slumps onto the street.

Mr Nichols was just 80 yards from his family home when he was beaten, his mother said.

Lawyers for Nichols‘ family have cast the beating as the latest instance of an African American brutalised as a result of racially biased policing practices that profile people of colour – even when the officers involved are non-white.

A sixth officer – identified as Preston Hemphill – was suspended with pay pending a hearing, and a seventh officer who was not immediately identified was also relieved of duty without pay, the police department said. No criminal charges have been filed against Hemphill, 26, who joined the force in 2018, or against the seventh, unnamed officer.

Tyre Nichols (AP)
Tyre Nichols (AP)

The five officers dismissed on January 20 – Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean – were charged on Thursday with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression in the fatal beating of Nichols.

Hemphill, who is white, wore the body camera that captured the first of four videos released by authorities on Friday of the traffic stop and violent confrontation that followed, according to the officer’s attorney, Lee Gerald.

In the video, it is Hemphill who appears to fire a stun gun at Nichols after Nichols is dragged from his car, forced to the ground and doused with pepper spray before he breaks free and runs away with the officers chasing him.

The specialised Scorpion police unit that included the five Memphis officers charged with murder in the case was disbanded on Saturday by the city.

It was not immediately clear whether the sixth and seventh officers under investigation belonged to that unit.