A sixth police officer has been dismissed from the Memphis Police Department following the death of Tyre Nichols, the Western Journal reported. Officer Preston Hemphill was relieved of his duties ahead of an internal investigation that has already yielded charges for other officers.
On Jan. 7, Nichols, who is black, was stopped by police but fled the scene. He was caught in a second stop, where he was allegedly beaten by five black police officers.
He died three days later, and the officers involved in that incident were dismissed and face charges, including second-degree murder. However, Hemphill, who is white, is now the sixth officer to face consequences in the aftermath of the incident.
It wasn't revealed until Monday that Hemphill, who was with the department since 2018, was also under investigation. Karen Rudolph, a Memphis police spokeswoman, said he was part of the original probe but that it isn't customary to release that information until the internal investigation concludes.
Hemphill was one of the officers caught on video during the first stop with Nichols. He allegedly pulled the man from his vehicle and began using a taser against him while he was on the ground.
"I hope they stomp his a--," Hemphill can be heard saying on the video after Nichols escaped. The other officers later caught up with his vehicle without Hemphill.
Lee Gerald, Hemphill's attorney, said that his client wasn't even on the scene when the second, more severe incident took place. “I can confirm that I represent Memphis Police Officer Preston Hemphill, who was the third officer at the initial stop of Mr. Nichols," Gerald said in a public statement.
"Video One is his bodycam footage," he continued. "As per departmental regulations, Officer Hemphill activated his bodycam," Gerald's statement went on.
"He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation," Gerald insisted.
The family of the deceased man was not satisfied with Hemphill's status, however. "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," attorneys for the family said Monday in a published statement.
"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," the Nichols family continued.
"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," the statement from the family said.
The video of five police officers brutally beating Nichols is disturbing and sickening regardless of their reasoning for stopping him. All of the officers involved should face the consequence to the extent that they broke the law.
It's unclear if Hemphill's role was similarly violent, and it's prudent to wait for all of the facts before rushing to judgement. However, the race-baiters and ambulance chasers may have found another pound of flesh in Hemphill -- even as it seems he wasn't present during the alleged crime.