Memphis officials have identified and fired a white police officer who participated in the brutal killing of Tyre Nichols.
The delay in the decision prompted criticism from the public and attorneys for the slain man’s family.
On Monday, Memphis Police Department’s Maj. Karen Rudolph said the officer was placed on desk duty on Jan. 8, one day before Nichols, 29, succumbed to injuries sustained by the hellish police beating he endured. However, Preston Hemphill’s name was not made public.
To the contrary, the five Black officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith, all had their names and photos shared by Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis on Jan. 20, when the agency tweeted a public statement announcing their terminations and the charges against them.
On Tuesday, prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family, brought to light Hemphill’s participation in the beating based on the recently released footage— noting the former officer stunned the motorist with his Taser.
Crump asked in a statement released on Twitter, “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,” the lawyer continued.
“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.”
Even though Hemphill was excluded in the first statement regarding the investigation, he was mentioned in a police report from the incident.
“Officer Preston Hemphill and the other officer’s actions and inactions have been and continue to be the subject of this investigation,” Rudolph said.
Officials argued Hemphill was initially omitted because he was not present during the vicious beatdown.
However, Hemphill’s bodycam footage captures him shocking Nichols with a Taser after he runs away from the officers. “I am fixing to Tase you,” he says. After another chase, Hemphill stops running, turns back, and says, “I hope they stomp his a–.”
Hemphill has since retained an attorney, according to Commercial Appeal. Lee Gerald confirmed on Monday that he has been hired to represent the officer.
“I can confirm that I represent Memphis Police Officer Preston Hemphill, who was the third officer at the initial stop of Mr. Nichols. Video one is his body cam footage,” Gerald said in a statement. “As per departmental regulations, Officer Hemphill activated his body cam. He was never present at the second scene. He is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”
When asked if his client is anticipated to face criminal charges, Gerald was silent.
Hemphill was a detective in the SCORPION UNIT with the other terminated officers, reports show. They have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after he was shocked with a Taser, pepper-sprayed, and beaten by several members of the Memphis Police Department during a traffic stop in Memphis.
A seventh officer — who was not identified Monday — was suspended without pay.