A sixth Memphis police officer has been placed on administrative leave in the aftermath of the violent arrest that led to Tyre Nichols’ death.
The officer, Preston Hemphill, was relieved of duty amid an ongoing internal investigation at the Memphis Police Department, a spokesperson confirmed on Monday.
The details of Hemphill’s involvement in Nichols’ arrest were not disclosed Memphis Police. Hemphill was relieved of duty at the beginning of the police department’s investigation, at the same time as the five who were charged.
Lee Gerald, an attorney representing Hemphill, told CBS News that his client “was the third officer at the initial [traffic] stop of Mr. Nichols” and “was never present at the second scene,” where video footage showed police beating Nichols at a nearintersection. The first of four tapes documenting the arrest was taken from Hemphill’s body camera footage, according to Gerald.
Hemphill “is cooperating with officials in this investigation,” his attorney said.
Hemphill joined the Memphis police force in 2018, according to the department spokesperson, who said in a statement that the department will share a more detailed update “once additional information is available.”
News of Hemphill’s leave comes after the city of Memphis released disturbing video footage of Nichols’ arrest. Five officers involved, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith were fired earlier this month and face charges including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.
Attorneys for Nichols’ family issued a statement Monday calling into question the way the department was handling the investigation into Hemphill’s role and noting that he is the only one of the six officers who is White:
“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.” he said
Nichols, a 29-year-old father who worked for FedEx, died on Jan. 10, three days after he was hospitalized with serious injuries sustained in the arrest, stemming from a traffic stop on the night of Jan. 7.
Attorneys representing Nichols’ family said last week that an independent autopsy they commissioned found that Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused a severe beating.”
In the videos, which include both body camera and surveillance footage totaling more than 60 minutes, at least one officer is seen pushing Nichols to the ground and hitting him with a taser, while another officer is heard saying at a different time, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
The five officers charged in Nichols’ death belonged to the SCORPION unit at the Memphis Police Department, which was “permanently deactivated” as of Saturday, police said in a statement.