Shelby County Tennessee District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Tuesday he won’t charge a former police officer who was involved in the traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols.
According to police documents, Preston Hemphill drew his gun while approaching Nichols’ car on January 7. That traffic stop quickly escalated to the point where Nichols suffered a beating at the hands of multiple officers. The 29-year-old died in a hospital three days later.
Hemphill, who is white, was fired in the aftermath of the death of Nichols, who was Black. He’s one of more than a dozen officers who were disciplined for his involvement in 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’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 said to another officer, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
“By no means do we endorse the conduct of Officer Hemphill at that first traffic stop,” Mulroy said on Tuesday. “But we do not believe that criminal charges are appropriate.”
The district attorney added that Hemphill is expected to testify at trial in the case.
Mulroy said that his office consulted with the Nichols family and their attorney Ben Crump, who said they supported the decision to not press charges.
“We understand that this individual has been fully cooperating with the investigation and has promised to provide substantial cooperation going forward. In light of this, we are supportive of no charges for this individual,” said a statement from Crump on behalf of the Nichols family.