Demonstrators protesting the police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee
Washington (AFP) - Memphis police said Monday a seventh officer has been suspended over the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, a young Black man whose death shocked the United States and has seen five officers fired and charged with murder.
The city’s fire department also said it had terminated three firefighters who arrived at the scene but failed to provide adequate medical assistance to Nichols.
“The Memphis Police Department began administrative investigations on officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols on January 7, 2023. On January 8, seven officers including Officer Preston Hemphill were relieved of duty,” the Memphis Police Department said in a statement.
Hemphill, who joined the force in 2018 and who is white, is suspended “pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation,” police spokeswoman Kim Elder said in a separate statement.
The Memphis Fire Department issued a statement that three of its firefighters who had responded to the police call had also been dismissed after they “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment” of Nichols at the scene of the assault.
Memphis continues to probe the death of the 29-year-old Nichols, following a traffic stop near his home on January 7.
Graphic video footage from the incident shows the five officers, who are all Black, repeatedly kicking and punching Nichols as he moans and calls out for his mother.
Nichols died three days later in hospital. He is to be laid to rest on Wednesday in Memphis.
Last week the five now former officers were charged with second-degree murder over the beating.
According to a statement by Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, attorneys for Nichols’ family, Hemphill used a Taser against Nichols at the beginning of the confrontation.
But Hemphill’s attorney told The Washington Post that he did not join the others at the scene of the beating.
A statement from Nichols’ family said it was “extremely disappointing” that Hemphill has not been fired and charged in the case.
“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,” they said.
“The Memphis Police Department owes us all answers.”
On Saturday the Memphis police disbanded the special unit, called the Scorpions, which the officers belonged to.
The Scorpions were established in 2021 as a strike team to focus on high-crime areas of the southern city.
The Memphis Police Department said in a statement it was “in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit.”