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Following outrage from viewers around the country who demanded all officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols be fired and charged, Memphis Police Department confirmed a sixth officer involved in the assault has been relieved of duty.
Officer Preston Hemphill is the sixth MPD officer and the first non-Black officer publicly disciplined for his role in the beating of 29-year-old family man and beloved skateboarder Tyre Nichols. He has not been officially fired or charged with any crime, however.
Hemphill was relieved of duty shortly after the Jan. 7 incident, the next day, according to ABC24 in Memphis, which confirmed the update with an MPD spokesperson. Yet its unclear why the identities of the five Black officers, who’ve been fired and charged with second-degree murder for beating Nichols, were publicized more than a week earlier.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.
Two Memphis, Tenn., fire department employees have also been “relieved of duty” while an internal investigation is conducted in connection with the death.
Hemphill, who was hired in 2018, currently remains under investigation for his role in the bloody gang-style assault of Nichols.
White officer relieved of duty in Memphis
Footage released on Friday showed Hemphill was one of three officers who first encountered Tyre. Hemphill pulled him forcefully out of his car and hit him on the ground with a taser. After Nichols fled fearing for his life, Hemphill could be heard stating “I hope they stomp his a**.”
While the initial police report from MPD stated Nichols complained of having “shortness of breath,” an independent autopsy ordered by the family’s civil rights attorney Ben Crump found Nichols suffered from extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.
Footage showed officers holding his arms as they took turns kicking, punching, beating and pepper spraying the 150-lb young man.
“I can confirm that I represent Memphis Police Officer Preston Hemphill who was the third officer at the initial stop of Mr. Nichols. Video One is his bodycam footage. 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’s attorney Lee Gerald said in a statement to media.
On Saturday, 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 said. “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.”