Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence.
The fallout from the Memphis police beating death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols continues with three more firings while prosecutors say they’re still looking at everyone involved leading up to, during and following the deadly January encounter.
On Monday, officials announced the firings of three Memphis Fire Department personnel and disclosed that two more police officers than previously known had been put on leave. That’s on top of the five Memphis police officers who’ve already been fired and charged; the disbanding of a police unit they belonged to; and two sheriff’s deputies who were put on leave.
“We are looking at everybody who had any kind of involvement in this incident,” from the officers and paramedics on scene to those who filed the paperwork, Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy said Monday.
Prosecutors moved “extraordinarily quick” with charges against the five officers “primarily responsible for the death of Tyre Nichols,” the district attorney said.
“As to everybody else, it’s going to take some time as we do that investigation, but I assure you the investigation’s ongoing,” Mulroy said.
The incident began with police pulling Nichols over for what they initially said was suspected reckless driving and unfolds at two locations. Video released Friday shows Nichols running away after officers yanked him out of a car and used pepper spray and a Taser to try to make him lie prone; and then officers catching up to him at a second location, where he is repeatedly kicked and beaten.
After his hands are restrained and he’s left slumped to the ground, roughly 23 minutes pass before a gurney arrives at the scene.
On Monday, the Memphis Fire Department announced two emergency medical technicians and a fire lieutenant were terminated over their response on scene.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it. And I think we’re going to find there’s more to this as we go into the trial,” Memphis City Council member Jeff Warren said. “I don’t think we’re on top of this yet.”
“We need to make sure that we go through our police department and see where we were weak, what happened with our procedures, what happened with our oversight,” Warren said.
The videos’ release spurred renewed calls for police reform, as well as protests over the weekend in cities including New York, Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles, as a makeshift memorial on the Memphis corner where Nichols was beaten grew.
Five Memphis police officers – all of whom are Black – were fired January 20 and then indicted last week. They face seven counts, including: second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping in possession of a deadly weapon, official misconduct and official oppression.
The five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. – are expected to be arraigned February 17.
On Monday, police said a sixth and a seventh officer were placed on leave with the other five on January 8 – and those two officers still are subjects of an internal investigation.
Police identified one of the two officers as Preston Hemphill, who is White. Police spokesperson Kimberly Elder declined to say whether Hemphill is being paid.
The city on Friday released body-camera and pole-camera surveillance footage of the initial traffic stop, as well as the beating at the second site. One of the body-cam videos reveals Hemphill – at the site of the initial traffic stop – fired a Taser at Nichols and eventually said after Nichols ran: “One of them prongs hit the bastard.”
Hemphill twice says to an officer who was with him: “I hope they stomp his ass.”
That body-cam video does not show Hemphill at the second site, where the county’s district attorney has said Nichols was beaten and suffered his serious injuries.
Hemphill’s attorney, Lee Gerald, said his client – who hasn’t been charged – “was never present at the second scene.”
The seventh officer has not been publicly identified.
“Officer Preston Hemphill and other officer’s actions and inactions have been and continue to be the subject of this investigation,” Memphis police said in a news release Monday.
“There are numerous charges still developing that are impending,” the news release reads.
The fire personnel terminated over their response to the encounter are emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge and fire Lt. Michelle Whitaker, the fire department said Monday.
The three were responding to a report of “a person pepper sprayed” when they arrived at the scene of the deadly beating and found Nichols on the ground, according to the department.
The fire department’s investigation concluded that “the two EMTs responded based on the initial nature of the call and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” the fire chief said in a news release.
Whitaker had remained in the fire truck, according to the statement.
Pole-camera video released Friday shows that after the EMTs arrived and before the ambulance arrived, first responders repeatedly walked away from Nichols, with Nichols intermittently falling onto his side.
Additionally, two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office were put on leave last week pending an investigation, after video of the incident was released. “I have concerns about two deputies who appeared on scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols,” Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said Friday.
Attorneys for two of the fired police officers have commented to CNN. Martin’s attorney, William Massey, said “no one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die.”
Mills Jr.’s attorney, Blake Ballin, told CNN the videos “produced as many questions as they have answers,” specifically regarding his client’s involvement during the fatal encounter, adding that Mills arrived later than other officers and that his vision was impaired by the pepper spray used during the traffic stop.
“Some of the questions that remain will require a focus on Desmond Mills’ individual actions,” and “on whether Desmond’s actions crossed the lines that were crossed by other officers during this incident,” Ballin said.
Attorneys for the other former officers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“There is a reckoning coming for the police department and for the leadership,” Memphis City Council member Frank Colvett said. “She’s going to have to answer not just to the council but to the citizens – and really the world.”
After the fire department firings were announced Monday, an attorney for Tyre Nichols’ family, Antonio Romanucci said, “everybody on that scene was complicit in this man’s death, in one way, shape, form, or another, somebody failed Tyre Nichols.”
“They either failed by using excessive force; they failed him by severely beating him; they failed him by not intervening; they failed him by not rendering aid,” the attorney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday.
The attorney said Nichols’ family still is trying to absorb the breadth of this multi-agency investigation, while also dealing with the loss of their loved one.
“This is just such a gross collapse of the system that we are supposed to trust, that it really is unspeakable,” Romanucci said.
The Nichols family is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday night at Memphis’ Mason Temple Church of God in Christ headquarters, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous last speech the day before he was assassinated in that city, according to a press release from their attorney Ben Crump.