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The only white officer involved in the horrific beating and death of Tyre Nichols was ‘shielded and protected’ by the Memphis Police Department, the family’s attorneys have claimed.

Preston Hemphill was suspended with pay pending a hearing, but has so far been spared the criminal charges filed against his five police colleagues.

Hemphill, 26, who joined the force in 2018, wore the body-camera that captured the first of four videos released by authorities on Friday of the traffic stop and violent confrontation that followed.

In the video, Hemphill is seen ‘violently pulling Nichols from his car while hitting him on the ground with a taser, later saying, “I hope they stomp his a**” after Nichols ran away’, the family’s lawyers said.

Preston Hemphill has been suspended with pay pending a hearing, but was spared criminal charges

Preston Hemphill has been suspended with pay pending a hearing, but was spared criminal charges

Hemphill then said on the radio to a dispatcher, ‘Taser was deployed,’ later telling another officer later, ‘One of the prongs hit the b*****d.’ 

The officer was not present at the second scene where Nichols was brutally punched, kicked and beaten while lying defenseless on the floor. 

Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, lawyers who are defending the Nichols family, slammed the police for appearing to give Hemphill special treatment, the only white officer involved.

They said in a joint statement yesterday: ‘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? 

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‘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.

Tyre Nichols, 29, was brutally beaten like a 'human piñata' by five Memphis, Tennessee, police officers , who were all African American, on January 7 and died three days later in the hospital from kidney failure and cardiac arrest

Tyre Nichols, 29, was brutally beaten like a ‘human piñata’ by five Memphis, Tennessee, police officers , who were all African American, on January 7 and died three days later in the hospital from kidney failure and cardiac arrest

Five officers were fired on January 20 before being arrested and charged with Nichols' murder as well as kidnapping, assault and misconduct on January 26

Five officers were fired on January 20 before being arrested and charged with Nichols’ murder as well as kidnapping, assault and misconduct on January 26 

Ben Crump, pictured alongside Mr Nichols' mother RowVaughn Wells, has called for Hemphill to be charged

Ben Crump, pictured alongside Mr Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells, has called for Hemphill to be charged

Protesters march over the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police

Protesters march over the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police

‘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.’

A seventh officer who was not immediately identified has also been relieved of duty without pay, the police department said. 

Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has said an unspecified number of officers besides the five initially implicated remained under investigation for policy infractions stemming from the arrest of Nichols.

The five officers dismissed on January 20 – Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean – were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression in the fatal beating of Nichols. 

Lee Gerald, Hemphill’s attorney, said: ‘As per departmental regulations officer Hemphill activated his bodycam. 

The body cam and surveillance footage of his January 7 interaction with five Memphis police officers was released on Friday night

The body cam and surveillance footage of his January 7 interaction with five Memphis police officers was released on Friday night

‘He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation.’

Three members of the Memphis Fire Department who responded to the fatal police confrontation were also dismissed on Monday after investigators found he was beaten and left handcuffed on the ground without medical attention for nearly 15 minutes.

According to a fire department statement, emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge failed to assess Nichols’ condition when they arrived, while fire Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker, who drove them to the scene, remained in her vehicle.

An internal review of their conduct found that all three fire department employees ‘violated numerous (fire department) policies and protocols,’ the agency said in a statement issued by Fire Chief Gina Sweat.

According to a fire department timeline of its response to an incident originally dispatched as ‘a person pepper sprayed,’ Long and Sandridge ‘failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment’ when they reached Nichols at 8.41pm, minutes after the beating.

JaMichael Sandridge

Robert Long

JaMichael Sandridge (left) and Robert Long, both EMTs with the fire department, were fired on Monday after they failed to attend to the dying Tyre Nichols

Lieutenant Michelle Williams was also fired on Monday night: She remained in the fire truck when they arrived on scene

Lieutenant Michelle Williams was also fired on Monday night: She remained in the fire truck when they arrived on scene

Instead, after an initial ‘interaction’ with Nichols, the two EMTs called for an ambulance team, who arrived on the scene at 8.55pm and ‘initiated patient care,’ the fire department said in its statement. Nichols was transported to a hospital a short time later.

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The ‘actions or inactions’ of Long, Sandridge and Whitaker ‘on the scene that night to not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department,’ Sweat said.

In addition to the seven police officers and three fire department personnel implicated in the Nichols encounter, two Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies have also been relieved of duty pending an internal review, Sheriff Floyd Bonner said last Friday, after the video was released.

The Shelby County district attorney’s investigation is examining the roles played by all individuals involved in the Nichols traffic stop and its immediate aftermath, including Hemphill Memphis Fire Department personnel and ‘those responsible for documenting the incident,’ the office said in a statement.

The specialized Scorpion police unit that included the five Memphis officers charged with murder in the case was disbanded on Saturday by the city. 

It was not immediately clear if the sixth and seventh officers under investigation belonged to that unit.

Davis has said investigators have not substantiated the claim Nichols was driving recklessly when he was pulled over, as some of the officers involved asserted at the time.

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