Tyre Nichols: 2 MPD officers relieved of duty

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 9:43 AM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two Memphis Police Department officers involved in the Tyre Nichols investigation are suspended.

According to MPD, officer Preston Hemphill and another officer were suspended on Jan. 15. The other officer’s identity has not been released.

The Memphis Police Department says five of the seven officers were fired and charged on Jan 26. Those five former officers are out on bond.

Numerous charges are still developing, MPD says.

Criminal Defense Attorney Lee Gerald is representing Hemphill.

“I can confirm that I represent MPD officer Hemphill who was the third officer at the initial stop of Mr. Nichols. Video one is his body cam footage,” said Gerald. “As per departmental regulations, Officer Hemphill activated his body cam. He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”

Chairman of Shelby County Commission Mickell Lowery paraphrased a statement heard in the first video released by the City of Memphis of the Jan. 7 traffic stop.

“We all saw it. We all saw the video,” Lowry said. “We all saw there was another officer involved. We also heard statements another officer made about stomping him out.”

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmit Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were all fired for their involvement in the traffic stop and have since been indicted for Nichols’ death.

Those five are charged with: official misconduct thru unauthorized exercise of official power, official misconduct thru failure to perform a duty imposed by law, official oppression, second-degree murder, aggravated assault - act in concert, aggravated kidnapping causing bodily injury, and aggravated kidnapping while possessing a weapon.

It is unclear if Hemphill will be charged and how he was involved.

According to Associated Press, information on disciplinary action taken against Hemphill was not immediately released because Hemphill was not fired and the department typically releases information about officers who are relieved of duty after an investigation ends.

Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who are representing Tyre Nichols’ family, said in a statement Monday:

“The news today from Memphis officials that Officer Preston Hemphill was reportedly relieved of duty weeks ago, but not yet terminated or charged, is extremely disappointing. Why is his identity and the role he played in Tyre’s death just now coming to light? 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. 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. The Memphis Police Department owes us all answers.”

Lowry echoed the attorneys’ question as to why Hemphill’s identity was withheld until now.

“I hope there was no intentionality behind leaving out names. I don’t want to go there,” he said. “I just want to make sure people are made aware of who was involved and everyone’s made aware.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement on Hemphill’s suspension, also commending Police Chief CJ Davis on her decision to disband the department’s SCORPION Unit:

“As mayor, I take violations of departmental policies very seriously, but I cannot comment further on employment matters during the pendency of administrative reviews.

In regards to the Scorpion Unit, I have had many conversations with Chief Davis about this unit over the last several weeks, including its deactivation. I support Chief Davis’ decision to permanently deactivate the unit for the reasons the chief set out over the weekend.”

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office also released a statement:

“This is an ongoing investigation. The current charges do not preclude us from adding additional charges as more information is presented. We are looking at all individuals involved in the events leading up to, during, and after the beating of Tyre Nichols. This includes the officer present at the initial encounter who has not— so far—been charged, Memphis Fire Department personnel, and persons who participated in preparing documentation of the incident afterward.

The DA’s Office worked extraordinarily swiftly but thoroughly to charge those whose offenses were plain and clear and directly contributed to the death of Mr. Nichols, but in no way is this investigation over.

While we are committed to transparency, we cannot comment on the details of an ongoing investigation or give previews of what charges we may or may not bring.

Our goal remains the same: to seek justice for Tyre Nichols and hold all who contributed to his death accountable. We ask for the public’s patience as the investigation continues.”

MPD says it is an ongoing investigation.

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