Officer relieved of duty after Tyre Nichols’ death

By , Daily Memphian Updated: January 30, 2023 3:03 PM CT | Published: January 30, 2023 10:40 AM CT

An additional officer has been relieved of duty following the death of Tyre Nichols. 

The Memphis Police Department confirmed Monday, Jan. 30, that Officer Preston Hemphill has been relieved of duty. Lee Gerald, Hemphill’s attorney, also confirmed his client was present at the initial traffic stop and his body camera footage was the first of four videos released Friday, Jan. 27, by the City of Memphis.

“Remember, we have advised that (this) investigation remains opened and ongoing,” said Karen Rudolph, public information officer for MPD. “Our goal was to handle the most egregious violations first. We will have additional information to share. Our updates will be posted on our social media platforms once it becomes available.”

Analysis: A timeline of how Tyre Nichols traffic stop became violent

Hemphill had been with the department since 2018. He joined MPD’s Crisis Intervention Team in July 2022, according to a Facebook post from the police department. 

The body camera in the first video released by MPD Friday appeared to be worn by a white officer.

All five officers who have been fired and charged in connection with Nichols’ death are Black.

According to MPD, Hemphill was relieved of duty along with the five other SCORPION unit officers when the internal investigation began. 

MPD did not confirm the identity of the officer in the video. 

Gerald confirmed Monday he was retained as Hemphill’s representation, and he confirmed Hemphill is the officer wearing the camera in the first video.

“I can confirm that I represent Memphis Police Officer Preston Hemphill who was the third officer at the initial stop of Mr. Nichols,” Gerald wrote. “Video One is his bodycam footage. As per departmental regulations Officer Hemphill activated his bodycam. He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”

Gerald did not confirm whether Hemphill was in the SCORPION unit. 

The video shows Hemphill driving up to the scene at Ross and Raines roads in southeast Memphis. Once he arrives, another officer pulls Nichols out of the car and pulls him to the ground.

The video shows Hemphill holding a Taser to Nichols’ leg while other officers hold him down while yelling at him, “get on the (expletive) ground.”

When Nichols fled from the scene, Hemphill shot his Taser at Nichols. Nichols could be seen trying to pull off his shirt or jacket, which may have been caught in the Taser’s wires.

He ran south on Ross Road, which was in the direction of his house. Hemphill and another officer, Demetrius Haley, run after him but could not keep up and turned back to the original scene. 

Hemphill could be heard in the video saying, “One of the prongs hit the bastard.” He later said in the video, “I hope they stomp his ass.”

Nichols, 29, was stopped by Memphis police officers Jan. 7 near the intersection of Raines and Ross Roads. He died Jan. 10 from injuries sustained in the incident.

Following Nichols’ deadly interaction with police, MPD first said officers were attempting to stop Nichols for reckless driving. MPD tweeted there was a “confrontation” as officers approached Nichols, and he fled on foot. They caught up to Nichols, and there was another confrontation before he was in police custody.

MPD’s SCORPION unit permanently deactivated

Nichols complained of shortness of breath, an ambulance was called, and Nichols was transported to Saint Francis Hospital in critical condition, according to MPD’s initial account.

MPD released video footage of Nichols’ fatal interaction with its officers on Friday, Jan. 27. The footage shows officers from MPD’s now-defunct SCORPION unit using a stun gun on, pepper spraying, kicking, punching, and handling a baton to hit Nichols. 

Five officers were terminated from the police department on Friday, Jan. 20. Nearly a week later, on Jan. 26, they were indicted on charges of second-degree murder, acting in concert of aggravated assault, two aggravated kidnapping counts, two official misconduct counts and official oppression.

Following the release of the video, protesters have called for action during marches in Downtown Memphis.

The police department announced on Saturday, Jan. 28, that it deactivated the SCORPION unit.


Tyre Nichols Memphis Police Department Preston Hemphill
Julia Baker

Julia Baker

Julia Baker covers Memphis and Shelby County’s law enforcement agencies and is a member of The Daily Memphian’s public safety reporting team. A lifelong Memphian, Julia graduated from the University of Memphis in 2021. Other publications and organizations she has written for include Chalkbeat, Memphis Flyer, Memphis Parent magazine and Memphis magazine.

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