Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence.
The fallout from the Memphis police death of 29-year-old Tire Nichols continues with three more firings as prosecutors say they are still looking at everyone involved leading up to, during and after the deadly encounter in January.
On Monday, officials announced the layoffs of three Memphis Fire Department personnel and announced two more police officers than previously known on leave. That’s on top of the five Memphis police officers who have already been fired and charged; the disbanding of a police unit to which they belonged; and two sheriff’s deputies who were sent on leave.
“We are looking at everyone involved in this incident in any way,” Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy said Monday.
Prosecutors “extremely quickly” brought charges against the five officers “primarily responsible for the death of Tire Nichols,” the prosecutor said.
“As for everyone, it’s going to take some time while we do that investigation, but I assure you the investigation is ongoing,” Mulroy said.
Nichols, who was black, died in a hospital from his injuries three days after the January 7 violent encounter with Memphis police, authorities said.
The incident began when police pulled over Nichols for what they initially believed was reckless driving, and takes place at two locations. Video released Friday shows Nichols running away after officers snatched him from a car and used pepper spray and a taser to try and make him lie face down; and then officers catch up to him at a second location, where he is kicked and punched repeatedly.
After his hands are held and he is left slumped on the floor, about 23 minutes pass before a stretcher arrives at the scene.
On Monday, the Memphis Fire Department announced that two emergency medical technicians and a fire department lieutenant had been fired for their on-site response.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it. And I think we’ll find there’s more to it as we go into the process,” said Memphis City Council member Jeff Warren. “I don’t think we’re on top of it yet.”
“We need to make sure we go through our policing and see where we were weak, what happened with our procedures, what happened with our oversight,” Warren said.
The release of the videos sparked renewed calls for police reform, as well as weekend protests in cities including New York, Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles, as a makeshift memorial on the Memphis corner where Nichols was beaten.
Five Memphis police officers — all of whom are black — were fired on Jan. 20 and charged last week. They face seven charges, including: second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping with bodily harm, aggravated kidnapping in possession of a deadly weapon, official misconduct and official suppression.
The five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. – are expected to be arraigned on February 17.
On Monday, police said a sixth and seventh officers were sent on leave with the other five on Jan. 8 — and those two officers are still the subject of an internal investigation.
Police identified one of the two officers as Preston Hemphill, who is white. Police spokesman Kimberly Elder declined to say whether Hemphill will be paid.
The city released body camera and pole camera surveillance footage Friday of the first traffic stop, as well as the beating at the second location. One of the bodycam videos reveals that Hemphill – at the scene of the first traffic stop – fired a taser at Nichols, eventually saying after Nichols walked away, “One of those teeth hit the bastard.”
Hemphill says twice to a cop who was with him, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
That bodycam video does not show Hemphill at the second location, where the county prosecutor has said Nichols was beaten and sustained serious injuries.
Hemphill’s attorney, Lee Gerald, said his client – who has not been charged – “was never present for the second scene.”
The seventh officer has not been publicly identified.
“The acts and omissions of Officer Preston Hemphill and other officers have been and will continue to be the subject of this investigation.” That’s what the Memphis police said in a press release Monday.
“There are still numerous indictments pending,” the press release reads.
The firefighters who were fired for their response to the encounter are emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge and fired Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker, the fire department said Monday.
The three were responding to a report of “a person sprayed with pepper spray” when they arrived at the scene of the fatal assault and found Nichols on the floor, the department said.
The fire department’s investigation concluded that “the two EMTs responded based on the original nature of the call and the information they received at the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” the fire chief said in a statement. a press release.
Whitaker had remained in the fire truck, according to the statement.
Pole camera video released Friday shows that after the EMTs arrived and before the ambulance arrived, first responders repeatedly ran away from Nichols, with Nichols intermittently falling onto his side.
In addition, two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies were placed on furlough last week pending an investigation, after video of the incident was released. “I am concerned about two deputies who showed up at the scene after the physical confrontation between the police and Tire Nichols,” said Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. Friday.
That’s what the lawyers of two of the fired police officers told DailyExpertNews. Martin’s attorney, William Massey, said that “nobody out there that night was planning to let Tire Nichols die.”
Mills Jr.’s attorney Blake Ballin told DailyExpertNews that the videos “raised as many questions as they contained answers,” specifically regarding his client’s involvement in the fatal encounter, adding that Mills arrived later than other officers and that his sight was impaired by the pepper spray used during the traffic check.
“Some of the remaining questions will require a focus on the individual actions of Desmond Mills,” and “whether Desmond’s actions crossed the line crossed by other officers during this incident,” Ballin said.
Lawyers for the other former officers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
While some have praised Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis’ swift action on the case, she is also the one who created the now-deactivated SCORPION police unit that the indicted officers were a part of.
“There will be a reckoning for the police and for the leadership,” said Memphis City Council member Frank Colvett. “She will be accountable not only to the council, but also to the citizens – and really to the world.”
After the fire department’s resignation was announced Monday, a lawyer for Tire Nichols’ family, Antonio Romanucci, said “everyone on the scene was complicit in the death of this man, in some way, shape, form or other, someone has let down Tire Nichols.”
“They failed either by using excessive force; they abandoned him by beating him severely; they failed him by not intervening; they failed him by not providing assistance,” the lawyer told DailyExpertNews’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday.
The attorney said Nichols’ family is still trying to absorb the scope of this multi-agency investigation, while also dealing with the loss of their loved one.
“This is such a gross breakdown of the system we’re supposed to rely on that it’s really unspeakable,” Romanucci said.
The Nichols family is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday evening at the headquarters of the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. his famous last speech was delivered in that city the day before he was killed, according to a press release from their attorney Ben Crump.