The president of the firefighters union in Memphis, Tennessee is defending the actions of EMTs involved in the Tyre Nichols case.
In a letter to the Memphis City Council, Thomas Malone, president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association, said his members “were not given adequate information upon dispatch or upon arrival on the scene” where Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, had been repeatedly punched and kicked by police after a traffic stop on January 7.
“Quite frankly, there was information withheld by those already on the scene which caused our members to handle things differently than they should have,” Malone suggested.
Three Memphis Fire Department personnel were fired for failing to render emergency care during the January 7 incident.
CNN obtained the letter from Memphis City Council member Dr. Jeff Warren. CNN has reached out to both Malone and Ben Crump, an attorney for the Nichols family, and has yet to hear back.
Malone also said he was “disheartened” to see some members of the 1,600-employee department criticizing fellow members during a city council meeting last week.
“Our members respond to hundreds of calls over and over, without fail. One incident should not define the good work being done by these dedicated public servants and some have taken that position, unfortunately,” he said.
Memphis Fire Chief Gina Sweat told the council that training issues and the failure of EMTs to take personal accountability on a call were to blame for her department’s handling of the Nichols case.
Emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge and fire Lt. Michelle Whitaker were fired, the fire department announced last month.
An investigation concluded that the two EMTs “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols” after responding based on both the initial call – in which they heard a person was pepper-sprayed – and information they were told at the scene, Sweat said in a news release.
Whitaker had remained in the fire truck, according to the chief’s statement.
The truck carrying the EMTs arrived at about 8:41 p.m. when Nichols was on the ground leaning against a police vehicle, the fire department said. An ambulance was called at 8:46 p.m. the department said. The ambulance arrived at 8:55 p.m. and left with Nichols 13 minutes later, according to the fire department.
Pole-camera video shows that between the time the EMTs arrived and the ambulance arrived, first responders repeatedly walked away from Nichols, with Nichols intermittently falling onto his side.
Sixth officer to be investigated, DA says
Since the incident, six officers have been fired, including five who are facing murder charges in Nichols’ death. On Monday, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson told CNN another of the fired officers involved in the incident would have his case’s reviewed.
The former officer, Preston Hemphill, was also fired for violating multiple police department policies, including personal conduct and truthfulness. He has not been charged in the case.
Last week, the district attorney’s office announced it would investigate all prior and pending cases involving the five officers who were criminally charged.
The officers were also added to a Giglio list, also known as a Brady list which documents law enforcement members who have been charged criminally or involved in incidents of untruthfulness or other issues that may undermine their credibility, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office will add former Memphis Police Department Officer Preston Hemphill to the Giglio list. Additionally, the Office will investigate all prior and pending cases of Hemphill,” spokesperson Erica Williams said.
Hemphill’s attorney, Lee Gerald, declined to comment about the investigation or his client’s addition to the Giglio list.
Hemphill was seen on body camera video using his Taser on Nichols and later could be heard saying, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
After Nichols’ beating, Hemphill provided conflicting statements about the case, first saying on a form that Nichols tried to grab a fellow officer’s weapon, but later telling investigators he did not see that occur, according to a police department document obtained by CNN.
CNN’s Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.