No Criminal Charges for Former Officer Who Fired Taser at Tyre Nichols

The News

A former Memphis police officer who fired a Taser at Tyre Nichols, the Black FedEx worker who was brutally beaten by several other officers in January after a traffic stop, will not be criminally charged in connection with Mr. Nichols’s death days after the beating, a top prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The former officer, Preston Hemphill, joined the police response on the night of Jan. 7 after Mr. Nichols was pulled over for what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. Mr. Hemphill was one of seven officers fired from the Memphis Police Department after the fatal beating of the 29-year-old.

Five officers have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and other felonies, while one fired officer has not yet been publicly identified. The five fired officers are Black; Mr. Hemphill is white.

Steve Mulroy, the Shelby County district attorney, repeatedly stressed in a news conference Tuesday that the decision not to charge Mr. Hemphill did not fully absolve him. But he noted that Mr. Hemphill was not among the officers who initially stopped Mr. Nichols on his drive home. And while Mr. Hemphill fired a Taser at Mr. Nichols as he fled, he was not among the officers who chased Mr. Nichols and brutally beat and kicked him near his home.

Mr. Mulroy said his office concluded that criminal charges “were not appropriate” after reviewing hours of body camera footage and conducting several interviews.

“We have to be focused only on the time frame of his actual interaction with Mr. Nichols,” he said of Mr. Hemphill.

Why It Matters: Mr. Hemphill is cooperating with prosecutors.

Mr. Mulroy said he expected that Mr. Hemphill would testify in court as prosecutors pursue charges against the other officers.

Mr. Hemphill has repeatedly met with investigators in recent weeks, Mr. Mulroy said, as the Memphis Police Department took steps to have the state bar him and the other officers involved in the encounter with Mr. Nichols from ever again working for a Tennessee police agency.

According to internal affairs paperwork filed as the state asked to disbar Mr. Hemphill, he helped pull Mr. Nichols from his car after the traffic stop and deployed his Taser for three seconds when Mr. Nichols fled after being pepper sprayed by another officer. “The subject was not armed, and did not impose an immediate threat to you or others,” the paperwork stated.

At the news conference, Mr. Mulroy read a statement on behalf of Mr. Nichols’s family, provided by their lawyer, Ben Crump, which cited Mr. Hemphill’s cooperation as a reason they supported the decision.

Lee Gerald, a lawyer for Mr. Hemphill, said, “We are obviously pleased with the turn of events that the case has taken.” He added that Mr. Hemphill “continues to honor his oath as a police officer to enforce the law, and that would include fully cooperating in all aspects of a criminal prosecution.”

What’s Next: Cases against the five charged officers will move forward.

The fallout from the violent beating of Mr. Nichols has drawn scrutiny to the Memphis Police Department’s history of excessive brutality and led to a series of administrative punishments, including a few suspensions and the firing of two E.M.T.s and a lieutenant with the Memphis Fire Department.

A formal autopsy will be released soon, Mr. Mulroy said, and is expected to “confirm that Mr. Nichols died as a result of the injuries sustained in the beating.”

The family of Mr. Nichols has also filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Police Department and the City of Memphis over the death of their son. The criminal cases against the five officers charged in Mr. Nichols’s death — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — are also set to move forward in the coming weeks.

Jessica Jaglois contributed reporting from Memphis.

Source: Read Full Article