Updated: Jan 31
UPDATE: The Memphis Police Department says there are numerous impending charges expected in the beating death of Tyre Nichols. The department said they have identified seven officers whose involvement remains under investigation, including five 5 Black officers who were fired and charged with murder last week and Preston Hemphill - a white officer who participated in the initial traffic stop on January 7 and used a TASER on Nichols. He was relieved of duty with the police department. The seventh officer involved had not been identified yet. Memphis police say they “expect the next phase of personnel actions in the coming days.”
Additionally, three Memphis Fire Department (MFD) members have been fired for violating numerous MFD policies and protocols. In a statement, the department said:
EMT-Basic Robert Long and EMT-Advanced JaMicheal Sandridge made the scene where Tyre Nichols was located handcuffed on the ground leaning against a police vehicle at approximately 8:41 p.m… and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols.
A Lieutenant with MFD, Michelle Whitaker, remained in the fire truck. “As a result,
EMT-B Long, EMT-A Sandridge and Lt. Whitaker have been terminated from the Memphis Fire Department,” the statement reads. “Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department.”
According to the Memphis Police Department, a sixth officer has been 'relieved of his duties' in connection with Tyre Nichols’ death. He is Preston Hemphill, a white officer that was hired in 2018. The police spokesperson would not say what Hemphill's involvement was, nor when he was relieved, citing an ongoing investigation.
On Friday the Memphis Police Department released footage of five Black officers beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, video evidence that contradicts their original press release about the incident. On January 8, the department released a statement about a "confrontation" with a reckless driver. It goes on to say:
As officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation occurred, and the suspect fled the scene on foot. Officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the suspect into custody. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended.
The videos begin with the confrontation, showing police run to Nichols’ car with their weapons drawn. Nichols complies with the cops' commands to get on the ground, as they continue to scream commands and tase him. In the second confrontation, video shows police repeatedly kicking, punching, and hitting Nichols with a baton while pinning him down before leaving him lying on the ground. At no point do we see the alleged reckless driving by Nichols. None of this information was included in the initial narrative, which also suggests Nichols suffered from a medical complication:
Afterward, the suspect complained of having a shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called to the scene.
Where have we seen this before?
This deception tactic is the same PR technique used by the Minneapolis Police in 2020 after George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. Former MPD public information officer John Elder emailed media a press release titled "Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” At no point does the statement acknowledge the officers’ use of excessive force or Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Similar to the Memphis Police account of what happened to Tyre Nichols, the release alluded that the victim had a medical issue.
Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.
In the Twin Cities, mainstream media outlets repeated that version with little to no skepticism. I have talked in length about how problematic, irresponsible and harmful that kind of journalism is.
After the Memphis Police Chief fired Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara released a statement condemning criminal behavior by police.
"I fully support Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis and her quick and decisive actions to terminate the officers involved in this terrible incident," Chief O"Hara wrote. "While I honor and commend the men and women in uniform who serve all people every day with respect, I condemn any criminal behavior by police. The privilege to protect with courage and serve with compassion is sacred. Violent abuses of authority, such as displayed in this incident, have absolutely no place in our profession.”
All of the Black officers were fired and charged with murder. No word on if the sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, will also face charges.