MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A sixth police officer has been relieved from duty in connection with the investigation into Tyre Nichols’ death following a confrontation with officers earlier this month, WHBQ-TV reported.
Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, three days after video released by police showed officers beating him with a baton and punching and kicking him during a traffic stop. Five officers subsequently fired from the police department were charged last week with murder and other crimes in connection with Nichols’ death.
On Monday, WHBQ reported that the Memphis Police Department relieved Preston Hemphill of duty. He remains a member of the department amid an ongoing investigation, according to the news station.
In a statement obtained by WHBQ, Hemphill’s attorney identified his client as “the third officer at the initial stop of Mr. Nichols.” Hemphill was seen firing a Taser gun at Nichols and was heard saying, “I hope they stomp his (expletive),” in a video released last week by authorities, WHBQ reported.
Attorney Lee Gerald confirmed to WHBQ that his client’s body camera footage was among the clips released last week.
“Video One is his bodycam footage,” the statement read. “As per departmental regulations Officer Hemphill activated his bodycam. He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”
Hemphill joined the Memphis Police Department in 2018, WHBQ reported.
Attorneys representing Nichols’ family said it was “extremely disappointing” that Hemphill was not immediately fired or charged in connection with the 29-year-old’s death.
“We have asked from the beginning that the Memphis Police Department be transparent with the family and the community — this news seems to indicate that they haven’t risen to the occasion,” lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement. “It certainly begs the question why the white officer involved in this brutal attack was shielded and protected from the public eye, and to date, from sufficient discipline and accountability.”
On Thursday, former officers Tadarrius Bean, 24; Demetrius Haley, 30; Emmitt Martin III, 30; Desmond Mills, 32; and Justin Smith, 28; were booked into jail on charges of murder, kidnapping, assault, official misconduct and official oppression. The officers charged are all Black.
Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said that the five “were found to be directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols.”
“Concurrent with that investigation, other MPD officers are still under investigation for department policy violations,” she said Wednesday in a recorded statement. “Some infractions are less egregious than others.”
Davis vowed to seek “absolute accountability for those responsible for Tyre’s death.”
Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been relieved of duty as officials investigate. In a statement obtained Friday by WHBQ, Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said he had “concerns about two deputies who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols,” prompting him to launch an internal investigation.
Videos shared Friday by police showed Nichols was given minimal medical attention for more than 20 minutes after he was attacked by officers. An independent autopsy found that Nichols died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” WHBQ reported.
In addition to the local investigation, federal and state authorities have also launched probes of the incident.
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