Nouran Salahieh, Holly Yan and Nick Valencia, CNN
Updated 4:25 PM EST January 30, 2023
Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic videos and descriptions of violence.
Fallout from the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols now includes a sixth Memphis officer removed from duties, demands for more criminal charges against officers and calls for nationwide police reform.
Officer Preston Hemphill “was relieved of duty with the other officers” involved in the January 7 encounter with Nichols, Memphis police Maj. Karen Rudolph said Monday.
Hemphill has actually been on administrative leave since the beginning of the investigation, Memphis police spokesperson Kimberly Elder told CNN. Elder declined to say whether Hemphill is being paid or whether any other officers were put on leave.
Body cam footage reveals Hemphill fired a Taser stun gun at Nichols and saying, “One of them prongs hit the bastard.”
Later, Hemphill says to another officer: “I hope they stomp his ass.”
Five other Memphis officers have been fired and face charges of second-degree murder in connection with the beating death of Nichols.
Hemphill has not been charged. “He was never present at the second scene” that escalated to the beating, and Hemphill has been cooperating with the investigation, his attorney Lee Gerald said.
Attorneys for Nichols’ family wonder why authorities were quick to fire five Black police officers and charge them with murder — while staying relatively quiet about Hemphill role in the encounter.
“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?” attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement Monday.
“It certainly begs the question why the white officer involved in this brutal attack was shielded and protected from the public eye.”
But officials knew releasing video footage of Nichols’ beating without filing charges against officers could be “incendiary,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Sunday. “The best solution was to expedite the investigation and to expedite the consideration of charges so that the charges could come first and then the release of the video,” he said.
Video of the gruesome beating “outraged” the Memphis police chief. The footage showed “acts that defy humanity,” Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said.
The attack has fueled broader public scrutiny of how US police use force, especially against people of color. And weeks after Nichols’ death, many questions remain. Among them:
• Whether more officers will face charges or other: Memphis City Council member Frank Colvett said he wanted to know why more officers at the scene of Nichols’ beating scene had not been disciplined or suspended.
It’s also not clear whether Hemphill or others will face criminal charges. “We are looking at all of the officers and first responders at the scene,” Shelby County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Erica Williams said Monday. “They could face charges, or they could not, but we are looking at everyone.”
It was “unprecedented” for indictment charges against the officers to come within weeks, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN on Sunday.