UPDATED: 6:05 p.m. ET, Jan. 30
Originally published on Jan. 24
The Memphis Fire Department employees involved in the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols were fired on Monday for their roles in an alleged murder by five city police officers, according to a new report. Emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge and fire engine driver Lt. Michelle Whitaker were terminated from their jobs for failing to provide aid to Nichols on Jan. 7, according to the Memphis Commerical Appeal.
It was previously reported that two Memphis firefighters had been removed from their jobs pending an investigation.
From the Commercial Appeal:
“Our investigation has concluded that the two EMT’s responded based on the initial nature of the call (person pepper sprayed) and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” a statement from MFD read. “After their initial interaction with Mr. Nichols, they requested an ambulance to respond.”
Long and Sandridge, according to the statement, arrived to the neighborhood at 8:41 p.m. and an ambulance was sent out at 8:46 p.m., arriving at 8:55 p.m.. By 9:08 p.m., Nichols was taken to St. Francis hospital.
Whitaker stayed in the engine the entire time.
“After concluding our internal investigation, it was determined that EMT-B Long, EMT-A Sandridge and Lt. Whitaker violated numerous MFD policies and protocols,” the statement read. “As a result EMT-B Long, EMT-A Sandridge and Lt. Whitaker have been terminated from the Memphis Fire Department.”
The fallout from the horrifying act of police brutality has been steady and swift.
The announcement came hours after the Memphis Police Department claimed it has disciplined a white police officer seen on the bodycam video from the incident that was released Friday. Officer Preston Hemphill was “relieved of duty” — but “not fired,” notably — for his role in the police violence.
The discipline stemming from the death of a Black motorist following a violent traffic stop in Memphis earlier this month involves more than just the five police officers who were fired, according to a new report.
Now, the Memphis Fire Department has been added to the list of city public safety agencies whose employees are under investigation in the aftermath of the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old father who died from injuries sustained when police officers savagely beat him.
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, two Memphis firefighters have been “relieved of duty” for their roles during Nichols’ traffic stop on Jan. 7. Neither of the firefighters was immediately identified and how they were involved in the traffic stop was not clear.
A spokesperson for the fire department “declined to give more information on the firefighters or whether they have been suspended or dismissed, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation,” the Commercial Appeal reported.
The announcement of the firefighters being removed from their jobs came hours after Nichols’ family and their attorneys viewed the police bodycam footage following the traffic stop for suspicion of reckless driving.
Nichols’ mother said the video is evidence that the Memphis Police Department “murdered” her son.
Attorneys for Nichols’ family, including Ben Crump, said the officers treated Nichols like “a human piñata” and compared the police violence to the infamous Rodney King beating in 1991.
“Regrettably, it reminded us of (the) Rodney King video,” Crump told reporters on Monday. “Regrettably, unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t survive.”
Nichols died on Jan. 10, more than two days after the traffic stop.
The Memphis Police Department (MPD) has pledged transparency and swiftly fired the five officers involved. MPD said “a confrontation occurred” during the traffic stop when officers approached Nichols, who “fled on foot.” A second unspecified “confrontation” occurred when MPD tried to take Nichols into custody, police said.
“Afterward, the suspect complained of having a shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called to the scene. The suspect was transported to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition,” MPD said in a press release admitting the officers “violated multiple departmental policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”
Memphis Councilman Frank Colvett, Jr. suggested that the police description of the series of events that led to and included Nichols’ arrest was a serious understatement.
“I have spoken to several people who have actually seen the video. … I have been told it’s disgusting, it’s damaging; it’s not good even slightly,” Colvett, Jr. told FOX13 before continuing later: “It’s bad. That was one, the overarching thing that I heard.”
Colvette Jr. predicted widespread outrage beyond Memphis once the arrest bodycam video footage is made public.
“We’re all going to be very disgusted and want the maximum penalty for these officers,” Colvett Jr. added.
Nichols’ sister previously reacted angrily when she learned the five officers involved — all Black men — had been fired.
“To see their faces makes me angry,” Keyana Dixon, Nichols’ older sister, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Friday. “I’m trying to hold it together, but my heart has been ripped open. This is torture.”
Nichols’ older brother likened the death to Emmett Till.
“Knowing the history of police interactions with the Black community throughout time, these men took a position of power and instead of doing something to better the future and honor the past, they became no better than the days of Emmett Till,” Jamal Dupree said in a joint statement with friend Angelina Paxton. “They have let us all down. Justice will be served to them.”
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