Report: Memphis Police Officer Drew Gun as He Approached Nichols

February 10, 2023

Police documents have revealed that fired officer Preston Hemphill drew his gun while approaching Tyre Nichols’ car on January 7.

That traffic stop quickly escalated to the point where Nichols suffered a beating at the hands of multiple officers. He died in a hospital three days later. 

Hemphill who is white, was fired in the aftermath of the death of Nichols, who was Black. Hemphill is now one of at least 13 Memphis officers facing discipline over the incident, including five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr.— who have been fired and charged with murder. Hemphill, so far, has not been charged for his role in Nichols’ beating.

Hemphill and the other officers were all part of the Memphis police department’s now-disbanded Scorpion unit, which had been established in 2021 in response to quickly-rising homicide numbers. Memphis residents soon complained of heavy-handed tactics by the 40-officer strike team, including the employment of punitive policing in response to relatively minor offenses.

Hemphill’s own body camera showed that from the very beginning of the January 7 traffic stop, he and two other officers approached Nichols with force that was disproportionate for the alleged offense of “reckless driving,” according to a statement from the disciplinary hearing that took place before he was fired.

Hemphill did not take part in a second encounter that occurred after Nichols had initially run from the officers and his car. However, police body cam video at the initial traffic stop 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.”

The information about Hemphill’s actions is contained in supporting documents attached to a Wednesday request from Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis to strip Hemphill of his police certification so that he could never work in law enforcement again. 

Hemphill’s lawyer did not immediately comment Thursday because he had not fully read the documents.

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