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3 Memphis EMTs fired for their response to the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols

The three personnel were found to have violated multiple department policies and protocols, the Memphis Fire Department said Monday.
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Three EMTs who responded to the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols were fired Monday after an internal investigation, the Memphis Fire Department said Monday.

Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Lt. 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 inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community," it said.

Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Michelle Whitaker.
Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Michelle Whitaker.Memphis Fire Dept via Twitter

The fire department was sent to the scene of Nichols' traffic stop at 8:31 p.m. after police called because of a "person pepper sprayed," the fire department noted. Long, Sandridge and Whitaker were directed to a second location and arrived to find Nichols leaning against a police vehicle at 8:41 p.m., 10 minutes after the initial call.

Long and Sandridge responded to Nichols, while Whitaker and a driver remained in the vehicle, the fire department said.

"Our investigation has concluded that the two EMT's responded based on the initial nature of the call (person pepper sprayed) and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols," the fire department said.

An ambulance was requested after their initial interaction with Nichols, the department said, and an emergency unit was dispatched at 8:46 p.m. The department said the unit arrived at the scene at 8:55 p.m., and initiated care and took Nichols to a hospital at 9:08 p.m. — about 27 minutes after Long, Sandridge and Whitaker arrived at the second location.

Voicemails left at phone numbers listed for Long and Whitaker were not immediately returned Monday evening. Sandridge did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Video of the traffic stop showed officers using force against Nichols multiple times, including pepper spray. The officers also appeared to punch Nichols, strike him with a baton and seemingly kick him in the face while he was detained, the videos released Friday showed.

Nichols was taken in critical condition to the hospital, where he died three days later. The Shelby County medical examiner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death.

Preliminary findings in an autopsy a forensic pathologist conducted for Nichols’ family show he was severely beaten before he died, the family’s attorneys have said.

Police initially said Nichols was pulled over in a reckless driving stop, but Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said her office has found no proof to substantiate the claim. Officers ordered Nichols on the ground, giving him conflicting commands, before he ran away.

Officers pursued Nichols, using a stun gun on him as he fled, according to the videos. He was repeatedly pepper-sprayed before he was beaten an estimated 80 yards from his mother's home.

Five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired Jan. 20 after an administrative investigation found they had violated department policy about the use of force. Two more 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 official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault, prosecutors announced last week. Attorneys for Mills and Martin said their clients plan to plead not guilty. It was unclear if the others have retained legal representation.

CORRECTION (Jan. 30, 2023, 8:08 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the three fire employees’ jobs. They were EMTs, not paramedics.