2 Memphis Fire Department Staff ‘Relieved Of Duty’ In Connection With Tire Nichols Death

Two Memphis, Tennessee, fire department personnel have been “relieved of duty” while an internal investigation is underway into the death of Tire Nichols, a black man who died days after a traffic stop.

Memphis Fire Department spokesperson Qwanesha Ward said employees were “involved in the initial patient care” of Nichols, but did not provide further details.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we are unable to comment further at this time,” Ward said in a statement Monday. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nichols, 29, was pulled over by Memphis police on January 7 for reckless driving, the department said. Details about what happened after the stoppage remain unclear.

Police said there was a “confrontation” between Nichols and the officers as they approached his car. Nichols allegedly ran away and the officers gave chase.

“While trying to detain the suspect, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended,” according to a Jan. 8 police statement. “Afterward, the suspect complained of having difficulty breathing, at which point he was called for an ambulance.”

Authorities did not provide details about the alleged confrontation.

Nichols was taken to the hospital in critical condition and died on January 10. A photo posted by the family showed Nichols in a hospital bed with blood on his face and a swollen eye.

The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said what happened to Nichols reminded him of the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.

“What we can tell you about the video: It’s horrifying, it’s deplorable, it’s egregious… violent,” Crump said. “And it’s very problematic on every level, because you have to ask yourself, again, we’re seeing evidence of what happens to black and brown people in simple traffic stops.”

The Memphis Police Department said in a Twitter Statement on Monday that it is working with the district attorney’s office “to determine the appropriate time to release the video recordings.”

In addition to the fire department personnel who were relieved of their duties, five police officers involved in the traffic stop were fired after an administrative investigation found they violated department policies, Police Chief CJ Davis said. They were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

The Department of Justice and the FBI’s Memphis field office also announced a civil rights investigation into the traffic stop.

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