Three EMTs who responded to Tire Nichols’ fatal beating were fired Monday following an internal investigation, the Memphis Fire Department said Monday.
Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker were found to have violated multiple department policies and protocols in their patient response to Nichols on Jan. 7, the fire department said in a statement.
“Their actions or omissions on the scene that evening do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not a reflection of the outstanding service that the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide to our community every day,” it said.
Firefighters were dispatched to the scene of Nichols’ traffic stop at 8:31 p.m. after police called because of a “person sprayed with pepper spray,” the fire department noted. Long, Sandridge, and Whitaker were led to a second location and found Nichols leaning against a police car at 8:41 p.m., 10 minutes after the first call.
Long and Sandridge responded to Nichols, while Whitaker and a driver remained in the vehicle, the fire department said.
“Our investigation concluded that the two EMTs responded based on the initial nature of the call (person with pepper spray) and information they received at the scene and did not conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” the fire department said.
After their first interaction with Nichols, an ambulance was requested, the department said, and an emergency unit was dispatched at 8:46 p.m. at 9:08 PM – about 27 minutes after Long, Sandridge, and Whitaker arrived at the second location.
Voicemails left on Long and Whitaker’s phone numbers were not immediately answered Monday night. Sandridge did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
A video from the traffic control showed officers using force against Nichols several times, including pepper spray. The officers also appeared to punch Nichols, beating him with a baton and seemingly kicking him in the face while he was being held, the videos released Friday showed.
Nichols was taken to hospital in critical condition, where he died three days later. The Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released an official cause of death.
Preliminary findings in an autopsy performed for Nichols’ family by a forensic pathologist show that he was severely beaten before he died, the family’s lawyers have said.
Police initially said Nichols was pulled over on a reckless driving ban, but Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said her office has found no evidence to support the claim. Officers ordered Nichols to the ground and gave him conflicting orders, before running away.
Officers chased Nichols and used a stun gun as he fled, according to the videos. He was sprayed with pepper spray repeatedly before being beaten an estimated 80 meters from his mother’s house.
Five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired on January 20 after an administrative investigation found they had violated department policies on the use of force. Two other officers – Preston Hemphill and an unnamed seventh officer – have been “relieved of duty,” police said Monday.
Bean, Haley, Martin, Mills and Smith were charged with second-degree murder, two counts of misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault, prosecutors announced last week. Lawyers for Mills and Martin said their clients plan to plead not guilty. It was unclear whether the others have retained legal representation.
CORRECTION (Jan 30, 2023, 8:08 PM ET): An earlier version of this article misrepresented the jobs of the three firefighters. They were EMTs, not paramedics.