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Three Memphis Fire Department employees fired as Tyre Nichols' death investigation continues

MFD said Robert Long, JaMicheal Sandridge, and Lt. Michelle Whitaker have been terminated for violating “numerous MFD Policies and Protocols."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Three Memphis Fire Department employees have been fired as the investigation continues into the death of Tyre Nichols.

MFD leaders said EMT-Basic Robert Long, EMT-Advanced JaMicheal Sandridge, and Lt. Michelle Whitaker, the driver of Engine 55, have been terminated for violating “numerous MFD Policies and Protocols."

According to a news release from the fire department, MFD first received a call about a person pepper sprayed at E. Raines Rd. and Ross Rd. They said Engine 55 was dispatched at 8:32 p.m. and arrived at that location at 8:36 p.m. The release said after speaking with the officer there, the Engine was directed to the second location at Ross Rd. and Castlegate.

MFD said the EMTs, Long and Sandridge, arrived at the scene where Nichols was handcuffed on the ground about 8:41 p.m., and Lt. Whitaker remained with the fire truck.

MFD leaders said based on their investigation, the two EMTs responded “based on the nature of the call (person pepper sprayed) and information they were told on the scene.” The release said the two failed to do an adequate assessment of Nichols, and after their initial interaction, they then requested an ambulance. MFD said Emergency Unit 28 was dispatched at 8:46 p.m. and arrived at the scene at 8:55 p.m., and Nichols arrived at Saint Francis ER at 9:08 p.m.

The release from MFD concluded with: “Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community.”

More Memphis Police Officers relieved of duty

This all comes as Memphis Police confirmed Monday a sixth and seventh MPD officer involved in the arrest which led to the death of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 7 were relieved of duty. A release late Monday afternoon by MPD only named one of those officers - Officer Preston Hemphill. MPD said Hemphill was relieved of duty was relieved of duty at the beginning of their internal investigation Jan. 8, and it remains an ongoing investigation. Hemphill was hired in 2018.

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.

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.”

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.

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