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E.M.T.s Provided No Care for 19 Minutes After Police Beat Tyre Nichols

The two emergency medical technicians who first arrived to treat Tyre Nichols after he was severely beaten by Memphis police officers did not provide any care for 19 minutes after getting to the scene, a regulatory agency concluded on Friday as it voted to suspend their licenses.

Members of the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board voted unanimously to suspend the licenses of the E.M.T.s, Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, who could be seen on video largely standing around as Mr. Nichols, 29, writhed in pain on the ground.

Robert LongCredit…Memphis Fire Department
JaMichael SandridgeCredit…Memphis Fire Department

On Friday evening, the Memphis Police Department also announced that it had fired a sixth officer, in addition to the five who had already been fired and charged with second-degree murder in Mr. Nichols’s death. The sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, had fired his Taser at Mr. Nichols as he ran away from the police. After other officers caught up to Mr. Nichols, he was captured on his body camera video saying, “I hope they stomp his ass.”

Mr. Hemphill’s lawyer, Lee Gerald, said that he and his client disagreed with the basis of his firing but would continue to cooperate with the investigation into Mr. Nichols’s death.

In the case of the E.M.T.s, the emergency medical services board found that for 19 minutes, neither had taken Mr. Nichols’s vital signs, conducted an examination of him, or administered oxygen. Mr. Sandridge, who, as an advanced E.M.T., was also authorized to administer an IV line and perform cardiac monitoring, did not do so, the board found. Mr. Nichols died three days after the Jan. 7 beating.

More on the Death of Tyre Nichols

  • Police Report: An official account written up hours after the beating of Tyre Nichols is the latest instance in which video evidence offered a starkly different account of police violence than what officers had reported.
  • Scorpion Unit: The Memphis Police Department disbanded this specialized group after five of its officers were charged with murder in Mr. Nichols’s death. Four of the officers had been previously disciplined, including two who had failed to report using force during arrests.
  • SkyCop Camera: The unobstructed bird’s-eye view provided by one of these mounted police cameras has been critical in shaping the public’s understanding of what unfolded after Mr. Nichols was pulled over.
  • Medical Response: The video footage has also turned public attention to the emergency medical workers at the scene, raising questions of whether they should or could have done more to help Mr. Nichols.

“They were his best shot, and they failed to help,” said Dr. Sullivan Smith, a physician who is the chairman of the board. He added that it was obvious that Mr. Nichols was in distress.

The chief of the Memphis Fire Department, which oversees the city’s emergency medical response, fired the two E.M.T.s, Mr. Long and Mr. Sandridge, earlier this week, as well as a lieutenant, Michelle Whitaker, who the chief said never got out of the fire truck at the scene. The union that represents Fire Department employees did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Matthew Gibbs, a lawyer for the state’s Health Department, had asked the emergency medical services board to hold a special meeting to suspend the E.M.T.s, ensuring they cannot work as E.M.T.s in the state. The suspension issued on Friday was temporary, and the board will hold a hearing over whether to issue a full suspension at a later time.

Dennis Rowe, an ambulance service operator on the board said there was “every reason to believe” that the E.M.T.s’ inaction “may have contributed to the demise of that patient.”

Mr. Rowe and another board member suggested that the they may also want to suspend the licenses of any additional emergency medical workers, such as supervisors, if they had not intervened to get Mr. Nichols help. Dr. Smith, the chairman, said that the state’s investigation into the treatment of Mr. Nichols was continuing.

Video footage from a police surveillance camera that captured the beating and much of the emergency medical response was played for the board. It showed that a handcuffed Mr. Nichols, whom the police had punched, kicked and struck with a baton, repeatedly fell over while propped up against a police car. The E.M.T.s helped Mr. Nichols sit up a few times, but then largely left him alone, not touching him for long periods of time and, at one point, walking away for about 30 seconds as Mr. Nichols rolled around on the ground.

When they first arrived, body camera video captured them asking a police officer to shine a light on Mr. Nichols, and one of the E.M.T.s also appeared to ask if any of the police officers knew his name. Meanwhile, police officers were claiming that Mr. Nichols must be on drugs — no evidence has emerged to suggest this — and, a few feet away, some were laughing as they recounted their assault.

The Memphis fire chief, Gina Sweat, said in a statement on Monday that the police had called for emergency medical workers to respond to a “person pepper sprayed,” and that the E.M.T.s had arrived 10 minutes later. The E.M.T.s then called for an ambulance, which arrived 14 minutes after them, Chief Sweat said.

Before the board considers a full suspension, the E.M.T.s would be able to contest the findings and provide their version of events. Neither has yet spoken publicly.

“These individuals are tasked with being a patient advocate,” said Greg Miller, who leads the Sumner County Emergency Medical Services agency, north of Nashville. “They were not an advocate for the patient in these situations.”

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