Firefighters Named in Tyre Nichols Wrongful Death Suit

Three former Memphis firefighters are among those sued by the family of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by police officers. The suit was filed in federal court today by Nichol’s mother, RowVaughn Wells.

The three firefighters, Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker, Robert Long, and JaMichael Sandridge, were terminated following an investigation into their failure to attend to Nichols’ medical condition. Here is more on their termination.

As alleged in the complaint:

  • On January 7, 2023, Memphis Police Department SCOPRION Officers Martin III, Haley, Hemphill, Smith, Mills Jr., and Bean detained Tyre Nichols without any probable cause.
  • On January 7, 2023, five Memphis Police Department SCORPION Officers Martin III, Haley, Hemphill, Smith, Mills Jr., and Bean brutally beat Tyre within an inch of his life, without any legal justification.
  • On January 7, 2023, at all relevant times, Tyre was unarmed, he was not resisting, he was defenseless, and he was restrained.
  • On January 7, 2023, numerous other government employees from the Memphis Police Department, the Memphis Fire Department, and the Shelby County Sheriff stood by apathetically as Tyre laid bloodied and battered on the street.
  • At 8:41 p.m. [on January 7, 2023] three Emergency Medical Technicians arrived and proceeded to disregard Tyre’s condition and failed to provide any of the clearly necessary medical aid to him.
  • Two of those EMTs—Memphis Fire Department EMTs Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge—joined the other officers milling around Tyre.
  • The third was Lieutenant Michelle Whitaker—a 25-year veteran with the MFD— who had arrived in a fire engine nearby, could see Tyre and was informed of the incident, but never left the engine to assist on the scene.
  • EMTs Long and Sandridge knelt near Tyre briefly while carrying medical bags containing triage kits and first aid supplies.
  • At one point, EMT Sandridge pulled a blood pressure cuff from his bag.
  • MFD EMT Sandridge took out the blood pressure cuff, but failed to use it or anything else in his medical bag.
  • Rather than using the cuff to evaluate Tyre’s blood pressure, EMT Sandridge set it back down after Tyre slumped over onto the ground at which time EMT Sandridge left him there.
  • For the next 19 minutes, all three EMTs failed to provide aid for Tyre.
  • Finally, at 8:55 p.m., 25 minutes after he was chased down and beaten … two new EMTs began assessing Tyre and offered the medical attention he desperately and obviously needed.
  • The two new EMTs placed him on a stretcher and loaded him into an ambulance about seven minutes later.
  • Tyre was finally transported to St. Francis hospital: a 15 minutes’ drive from where he was beaten.
  • On January 10, 2023, Tyre ultimately died from his injuries as a direct result of the policies and practices of the City of Memphis.

The 138 page, 897 paragraph complaint accused police officers, firefighters and the city of Memphis with 25 counts ranging from civil rights violations to fraudulent misrepresentation. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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