6th Memphis officer relieved of duty in Nichols arrest
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A sixth Memphis Police Department officer has been disciplined for his involvement in the brutal beating and arrest of Tyre 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 at a hospital, Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said. She did not disclose Hemphill’s role in the arrest.
Rudolph said information on 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 duty after an investigation ends.
Nichols’ family and others closely watching developments surrounding his brutal arrest and killing in Memphis were awaiting word of additional disciplinary action against officers who were at the scene but have not been fired or charged.
Highly anticipated video footage released Friday showed five Memphis Police Department officers using a stun gun, a baton, and their fists as they pummeled Nichols during a nighttime arrest on Jan. 7 after he was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was heard calling for his mother and seen struggling with his injuries as he sat helpless on the pavement. He died at a hospital three days later.
The five officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other alleged offenses stemming from the arrest, which has shocked many for its brutality and revived calls for police reform around the country.
Memphis police and the Shelby County district attorney have said an investigation into the actions of law enforcement officers who reported to the scene of the arrest was ongoing. A Memphis police spokeswoman said Monday that information will be released when it becomes available.
In addition to the five officers, who chatted and milled about for several minutes as Nichols sat on the ground in obvious pain, two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have been relieved of duty without pay while their conduct is investigated. And, two Memphis Fire Department department workers were also removed from duty over Nichols’ arrest.
But the video showed other officers who also responded to the scene. Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis has not said if an officer who was involved in the initial traffic and could be heard saying, “I hope they stomp his ass” as Nichols ran away has been disciplined.
Calls for more officers to be fired or charged have been loud and persistent from the Nichols family, their lawyers, and community activists who have peacefully protested in Memphis since the video was released. The video was evocative of the arrest of George Floyd in 2020 and the officers’ failure to intervene.
On Saturday, Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press that the family was going to “continue to seek justice and get some more officers arrested.”
“Questions were raised before the video was released, I raised those questions,” Wells said. “I just felt there was more than five officers out there. Now, five were charged with murder because they were the main participants, but there were five or six other officers out there that didn’t do anything to render any aid. So they are just as culpable as the officers who threw the blows.”
Memphis City Council member Martavius Jones said he watched the video with colleagues on Friday. He acknowledged Monday that Memphis police policies of failure to render aid and de-escalation appeared to have been violated.
“When everybody saw the video, we see that you have multiple officers just standing around, when Mr. Nichols is in distress, that just paints a totally different picture,” Jones said
Jones said he believes more officers should be disciplined.
“At this point, what’s going to be helpful for this community is to see how swiftly the police chief deals with those other officers now that everybody has seen the tape and knows that it wasn’t only five officers who were at the scene the entire 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 that the unit has been disbanded.
Nichols’ funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday at a Memphis church.
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