MEMPHIS, Tenn — A sixth Memphis Police officer involved in the arrest which led to the death of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 7 has been relieved of duty, a spokesperson for the department confirmed with ABC24 Monday.
According to Memphis Police, Officer Preston Hemphill has been relieved of duty during an ongoing investigation. Memphis Police told ABC24 Hemphill was relieved at the beginning of their internal investigation Jan. 8 into the circumstances which eventually led to Nichols' death.
We are working to find out why his name was just released Monday.
Hemphill was hired in 2018.
Memphis Police said additional information would be available on their social media platforms once it became available.
Attorneys for the Nichols' family released the following statement: "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. 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. 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.”
Protesters had been calling for MPD and city officials to take additional action after the video of the 29-year-old's beating by five now-former Memphis Police officers was released on Friday.
Attorney Lee Gerald, representing Hemphill, released the following statement:
"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 was shown on video during MPD's initial confrontation with Nichols, pulling him from his car forcefully while hitting him on the ground with a Taser, later stating, "I hope they stomp his a**" after Nichols escaped.
Shelby County D.A. says charges "may or may not" happen against Hemphill
Shelby County District Attorney General Steve Mulroy said in a statement Monday that his office is still investigating additional charges, and did not rule out charges being levied for other officers involved:
"This is an ongoing investigation. The current charges do not preclude us from adding additional charges as more information is presented. We are looking at all individuals involved in the events leading up to, during, and after the beating of Tyre Nichols. This includes the officer present at the initial encounter who has not— so far—been charged, Memphis Fire Department personnel, and persons who participated in preparing documentation of the incident afterward.
The DA’s Office worked extraordinarily swiftly but thoroughly to charge those whose offenses were plain and clear and directly contributed to the death of Mr. Nichols, but in no way is this investigation over.
While we are committed to transparency, we cannot comment on the details of an ongoing investigation or give previews of what charges we may or may not bring.
Our goal remains the same: to seek justice for Tyre Nichols and hold all who contributed to his death accountable. We ask for the public's patience as the investigation continues."
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland also weighed in, saying he's taking the investigation very seriously.
"As mayor, I take violations of departmental policies very seriously, but I cannot comment further on employment matters during the pendency of administrative reviews."
Memphis police said two confrontations occurred between Nichols and officers. After he was arrested, Nichols complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital in critical condition. He died three days later.
Relatives have accused the police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
According to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who was hired by Nichols' family, an independent autopsy found that Nichols had suffered from extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.
Nichols’ family said police beat him to the point of being unrecognizable.
Five Memphis Police officers were fired and later indicted on numerous charges, including second-degree murder, in the death of Nichols.