A fired Memphis paramedic who responded to the fatal beating of Tire Nichols testified that police “interfered with patient care” when they refused to remove Nichols’ handcuffs.
Former Memphis Fire Department EMT Robert Long described the Jan. 7 incident Friday before the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board.
Long said he and another EMT, JaMichael Sandridge, received a call about an assault on a police officer. When they arrived, the officer said he was pepper sprayed by his partner but didn’t need medical attention, Long said.
The officer directed Long and Sandridge to go to another crime scene where police had Nichols in custody.
Long testified that when he arrived, he visually examined Nichols and found that Nichols had a bump on his head, a split lip, and a dried, bloody nose. He said he asked Nichols what happened, and Nichols replied, “I want to get up and take my handcuffs off.”
The former paramedic said he asked police what happened and they said: “He ran away from us.”
At one point, Long said, “MPD bends over the patient in his face and says loudly that the patient is not going anywhere and that they are not going to untie him, which is hampering 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 it was difficult to check his vitals because Nichols was handcuffed.
Finally, Long said he called an ambulance.
Nichols, 29, was taken to hospital in critical condition. He died three days later.
Memphis police initially said they stopped Nichols for reckless driving, but Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said her office found no evidence to support the claim. In video released in January, police officers appeared to pepper-spray him, beat him, hit him with a baton and kick him in the face while he was detained.
Preliminary results of an autopsy a forensic pathologist performed on Nichols’ family show he was severely beaten before his death, her lawyers 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 violated department policies on the use of force. They were all charged with second-degree murder, two counts of misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official repression and one count of aggravated assault.
Two other officers – Preston Hemphill and an unnamed seventh officer – were “removed from duty” for their involvement.
Long, Sandridge and another EMT, Lt. Michelle Whitaker, were fired after an internal investigation found they violated several department policies and protocols in their patient response to Nichols.