The Memphis Police Department fired a sixth officer on Friday as it announced further findings from its internal investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols, 29, passed away in the hospital on Jan. 10, three days after a violent encounter with five Memphis police officers during a traffic stop that ultimately ended with Nichols succumbing to injuries sustained in the incident. The encounter was captured in video recordings made public by the city of Memphis on Jan. 27.
In a statement, Memphis PD said it concluded that former officer Preston Hemphill, 26, violated multiple department policies, resulting in his termination. Hemphill had already been suspended on Monday with pay, pending a hearing.
Hemphill was charged with violations of personal conduct, truthfulness, use of a conducted energy weapon (TASER), uniform and equipment regulations, and processing of recovered property, according to Memphis PD.
Memphis PD said the investigation into the five other officers charged over Nichols’s death is ongoing, with updates expected to be released in the near future.
Hemphill was hired by the MPD in March 2018.
An attorney for Hemphill said his client would cooperate fully with police.
“While we disagree with this termination, Preston Hemphill will continue to cooperate with all authorities in the investigation into the death of Mr. Nichols,” Lee Gerald said.
A seventh police officer, whose identity has not been disclosed, was also taken off duty without pay, according to the Memphis Police Department.
Along with the seven police officers, three members of the city’s fire department have been dismissed for not providing adequate medical care to Nichols after he was handcuffed.
Additionally, two Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies were removed from duty without pay pending a review, Sheriff Floyd Bonner said on Jan. 27 after the video of Nichols’s arrest became public.
Meanwhile, the special police unit that was tasked with combating rising crime in Memphis was disbanded on Jan. 28. The Scorpion unit, launched in November 2021, comprised three teams of about 30 officers. The unit partly targeted violent offenders in crime hotspots in the city. But it has faced heavy criticism in the aftermath of Nichols’s death.
Hemphill and the five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith—were part of the special unit.
Hemphill’s attorney has previously said that Hemphill was wearing the body camera that recorded the first of the four videos released by authorities.
The video shows Hemphill appearing to use a Taser stun gun on Nichols after he was pulled from his vehicle, forced onto the ground, and sprayed with pepper spray. Once Nichols broke free and ran away, he was chased by the five officers who were later dismissed and was subjected to a violent beating.
The five officers face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder in Nichols’s death. They were also each charged with aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.
Nichols’s death has led to widespread protests and calls for justice. The family of Nichols, along with their attorneys and community activists, continue to demand further action such as the firing or charging of additional officers.
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