A fired Memphis EMT who responded to the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols testified that police were "impeding patient care" when they refused to take the handcuffs off of Nichols.
Former Memphis Fire Department EMT Robert Long detailed the Jan. 7 incident in front of the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board on Friday.
Long said that he and another EMT JaMichael Sandridge received a call for an assault on a police officer. When they arrived, the officer said he had been pepper sprayed by his partner but did not need medical attention, Long said.
The officer instructed Long and Sandridge to go to another scene where police had Nichols in custody.
Long testified that he did a visual assessment of Nichols when he arrived and noticed that Nichols had a bump on his head, a busted lip and a dried bloodied nose. He said he asked Nichols what happened and Nichols responded, "I want to stand up and be uncuffed."
The former EMT said he asked police what happened and they said, "He ran from us."
At one point, Long said: "MPD is leaning over the patient in his face saying loudly that the patient is not going anywhere and that they are not going to uncuff him, impeding patient care."
According to Long, he tried several times to take Nichols' vitals but Nichols kept rolling away from him. Long told the board that because Nichols was handcuffed, it made it difficult to check his vitals.
Eventually, Long said he called for an ambulance.
Nichols, 29, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He died three days later.
Memphis police initially said they pulled over Nichols for reckless driving but Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said her office has found no proof to substantiate the claim. In a video released in January, police officers appeared to pepper spray him, punch him, strike him with a baton and kick him in the face while he was detained.
Preliminary findings in an autopsy a forensic pathologist conducted for Nichols’ family show he was severely beaten before he died, their attorneys have said.
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. They were all 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.
Two other officers — Preston Hemphill and an unnamed seventh officer — were “relieved of duty” for their involvement.
Long, Sandridge and another EMT, Lt. Michelle Whitaker, were fired after an internal investigation found that they violated multiple department policies and protocols in their patient response to Nichols.