3 Memphis EMTs Fired in Tyre Nichols Investigation

January 31, 2023

The Memphis Fire Department said on Monday that three EMTs who had responded to the incident where Tyre Nichols was fatally beaten by police were fired after an internal investigation.

The EMTs’ firings come as two more police officers than initially reported were placed on administrative leave, bringing the total to seven, including the five officers who were fired and criminally charged.

EMTs Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Lt. Michelle Whitaker were found to have violated multiple policies and protocols in how they responded to Nichols on January 7, the fire department said in a statement. 

“Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community,” it said.

The fire department was sent to the scene of Nichols’ traffic stop at 8:31pm after police called because of a “person pepper sprayed,” the fire department stated. Long, Sandridge and Whitaker were directed to a second location and arrived to find Nichols leaning against a police vehicle at 8:41pm, 10 minutes after the initial call.

Long and Sandridge responded to Nichols while Whitaker and a driver stayed in the vehicle, the fire department said.

According to the department, an ambulance was requested after their initial interaction with Nichols. It arrived at the scene at 8:55pm, and initiated care and took Nichols to a hospital at 9:08pm, about 27 minutes after the EMTs had arrived at the second location.

Pole-camera video of the street scene released Friday shows that between the time the EMTs arrived and the ambulance arrived, first responders repeatedly walked away from Nichols, while Nichols intermittently fell onto his side. 

29-year-old Nichols died at a hospital three days after the January 7 incident. 

Also Monday, the police department announced that seven officers were placed on leave the day after the beating—two more than previously announced.

One of those officers, Preston Hemphill, who is white, said he has been on administrative leave since the investigation began. One of the police body cam videos at the initial traffic stop on January 7 reveals that Hemphill fired a Taser at Nichols and said, “One of them prongs hit the bastard.”

Later, Hemphill says to another officer, “I hope they stomp his ass.” That body-cam video does not show Hemphill at the second site, however. 

Hemphill has not been charged, and his attorney says he is cooperating with the investigation.

The seventh officer has not been identified.

These latest developments come after the Scorpion unit which included the initial five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr.—who have been charged with 2nd degree murder in the beating death of Nichols, was disbanded by the Memphis Police Department over the weekend.

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