Memphis Fire EMT Robert Long testified in front of the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board on Friday that Memphis Police officers were “impeding patient care” after he and Advanced Emergency Medical Technician JaMichael Sandridge arrived to find Tyre Nichols sitting on the ground, propped up against a police car on January 7.
“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,” Long said.
No one told him not to treat the patient, Long said.
He also testified that he believed Nichols didn’t want to be treated, claiming he refused medical care by rolling away when he or Sandridge attempted to take his vitals, but did not verbally say not to treat him.
“I did a visual assessment of the patient and there was nothing that indicated to me that he was critical, with the information that I knew,” Long said. “I was trying to get information from the patient, even the patient didn’t tell me.”
Long said he did a visual assessment when he arrived on the scene and noted the patient had a “bump on his head, a busted lip and a dried bloody nose” but because Nichols was moving around, “that told me he had a good pulse and blood pressure were good.” He also reasoned, because Nichols was speaking, his airway wasn’t obstructed.
The fire unit had been dispatched for an “assault on an officer,” according to his testimony. Upon arriving on the scene, Long said an MPD officer told him he had been pepper sprayed by his partner, but they had a person in custody who may need their help.
Nichols’ condition began to deteriorate roughly fifteen minutes after he arrived on the scene, according to Long.
Long and Sandridge “failed to provide any basic or limited advanced skills in emergency care” despite Nichols showing “clear signs of distress,” according to documents from a February 3 summary suspension meeting.
Neither man has been criminally charged. Attorney Darrell O’Neal, who is representing Long, declined to offer any additional comment.
O’Neal called a former Memphis EMT, John Holloway, as an expert witness to testify about Long’s response. He noted Long was the lowest-ranking EMT on the scene and that he could have faced assault and battery charges.
“EMT Long did everything that he could, everything that he knew he could do,” Holloway said.
Long testified he was on combat deployment for the US Army last year and returned to his EMT job with Memphis Fire in December. The day of the fatal Tyre Nichols beating was his first day back on duty.
The board met to further discuss Long’s license suspensions. They voted to keep the summary suspension in effect. Long will receive a full hearing before the board at a later, undetermined date, according to O’Neal.