6th Memphis Police Officer Connected to Tyre Nichols Case Relieved of Duty

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
January 30, 2023US News
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A sixth Memphis police officer has been relieved of duty in connection to the assault and death investigation of Tyre Nichols, a Memphis Police Department (MPD) official announced on Monday.

MPD Officer Preston Hemphill was suspended and is on administrative leave, said Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph. It is unclear what Hemphill’s role was in the Jan. 7 incident.

Hemphill’s lawyer, Lee Gerald, said in a statement that Hemphill was the third officer at a traffic stop that preceded the violent arrest and that he activated his body camera. But Hemphill was not at the scene where Nichols was beaten, Gerald said.

Rudolph said information on disciplinary action taken against Hemphill was not immediately released because the officer was not fired and the department typically releases information about officers who are relieved of duty after an investigation ends.

The latest development comes days after officials released video footage on Jan. 27 showing five former Memphis police officers, who are now charged with Nichols’ murder, beating the 29-year-old man after he attempted to flee during a traffic stop. Nichols died in a hospital of his injuries three days later.

The five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith—were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, and a slew of other charges in relation to Nichols’ death.

NTD Photo
This combo of images provided by the Memphis Police Department shows (top L–R) officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, (bottom L–R) Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith. (Memphis Police Department via AP)

Court records show that the officers—who are all black—will all be arraigned together at 10 a.m. on Feb. 17 at a court in Shelby County, Tennessee, according to multiple news reports. Judge James Jones will hear the case, the records show.

They face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

The MPD and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office have said an investigation into the actions of law enforcement officers who reported to the scene of the arrest was ongoing, noting that additional information will be made public as soon as it becomes available.

In addition to the five officers, two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been relieved of duty without pay while their conduct is being investigated. Two members of the Memphis Fire Department have also been removed from duty over Nichols’ arrest.

Police Disband Special Unit

All five now-fired police officers were members of a special unit, “SCORPION,” which was permanently disbanded a day after the city publicly released footage of Nichols’ arrest.

“SCORPION,” which was launched in November 2021, comprises three teams of about 30 officers. The term stands for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.”

The unit was tasked with addressing rising crime in Memphis, in part by targeting violent offenders in areas of concern. But the unit faced heavy criticism in the aftermath of Nichols’ death. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Nichols had “succumbed to his injuries.”

Calls for Disciplinary Actions

Nichols’ beating and death have led to nationwide outrage, with Nichols’ family, protesters, and community activists across the country calling for more officers to be fired or charged.

On Jan. 28, Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press that the family was going to “continue to seek justice and get some more officers arrested.”

“Questions were raised before the video was released, I raised those questions,” Wells told the network. “I just felt there was more than five officers out there. Now, five were charged with murder because they were the main participants, but there were five or six other officers out there that didn’t do anything to render any aid. So they are just as culpable as the officers who threw the blows.”

Memphis City Council member Martavius Jones said he watched the video with colleagues on Jan. 27. He acknowledged on Monday that Memphis police policies of failure to render aid and de-escalation appeared to have been violated, noting that he believes more officers on the scene should be disciplined.

“At this point, what’s going to be helpful for this community is to see how swiftly the police chief deals with those other officers now that everybody has seen the tape and knows that it wasn’t only five officers who were at the scene the entire time,” Jones said.

Protests Erupt in US Cities

Since officials released video footage of Nichols’ beating, protests have been organized in several U.S. cities. Over the weekend, demonstrators took to the streets in different cities with various messages, some demanding justice and an end to so-called “police terror,” others with generic leftist messages about “class struggle” and “revolution.”

In some locations, protests were being led by the far-left group known as Antifa, known for being confrontational and violent during protests, according to videos circulating on social media.

Some of the protesters have blocked traffic and caused damage to property.

In Memphis, roughly several dozen individuals obstructed a busy bridge on I-55, which connects Arkansas and Tennessee across the Mississippi River, causing semi-trucks to accumulate behind them.

NTD Photo
A demonstrator stomps on the window of an NYPD car as people protest the death of Tyre Nichols in New York City on Jan. 27, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

In New York City, protesters started demonstrating in a crowded Times Square around 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 27. A video on social media shows a man stomping on the front windshield of a police car surrounded by a large crowd in Times Square before he’s wrestled to the ground by officers. Grand Central Station was reportedly shut down in anticipation of protests.

In Seattle, a large group of Antifa militants marched downtown chanting “black lives matter” and “say his name,” Rebel News reported. Another video by independent journalist Jonathon Choe shows an Antifa group blocking traffic near Seattle Center, chanting, “no justice, no peace.”

Epoch Times reporter Caden Pearson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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