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News / Nation & World

Documents detail EMTs’ failure to aid Tyre Nichols

By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press
Published: March 2, 2023, 3:46pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two Memphis Fire Department emergency medical technicians who were fired and had their licenses suspended for failing to give aid to Tyre Nichols for 19 minutes while he struggled with injuries from being brutally beaten by police, did not check his vital signs or perform other basic medical examinations, documents released Thursday showed.

Advanced EMT JaMichael Sandridge and EMT Robert Long went to the location where five Memphis police officers had punched, kicked and hit Nichols with a baton during an arrest after Nichols fled a traffic stop on the night of Jan. 7.

Video footage released by the city of Memphis showed the beating and the aftermath, which included the officers and other first responders chatting and milling about as Nichols was unattended — handcuffed on the ground and slumped against a squad car.

Nichols, 29, died three days later at a hospital. His death led to the firings of the five officers, who have since been charged with second-degree murder. They have pleaded not guilty. The Nichols case has intensified calls for police reform in Memphis and around the country.

Documents provided to The Associated Press on Thursday were tied to the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Division’s decision Feb. 3 to suspend the licenses of Sandridg e and Long. Officials said they violated state rules of emergency aid and treatment.

In the board’s records, officials said both technicians failed to provide any basic emergency care to Nichols for 19 minutes, even as he showed “clear signs of distress, such as the inability to remain in a seated posture and laying prone on the ground multiple times.”

Both Long and Sandridge failed to initiate a primary examination, which could help identify the presence of any life-threatening injuries, the documents showed. Nichols’ vital signs were not checked, he did not receive high-flow oxygen or an intravenous line, and he was not placed on a heart monitor, the documents showed.

They also did not perform a secondary examination, which is used to establish any non-life-threatening injuries, the documents showed.

“Respondent did not engage his partner at the event location for purposes of taking appropriate action in safeguarding patient T.N. from incompetent health care practices of other emergency medical services personnel,” officials said in the documents.

Sandridge did not immediately return a message that was left over the phone for him with a person who answered his listed number. There was no immediate response to a voicemail seeking comment left at a number listed for Long.

During the license suspension hearing last month, board member Sullivan Smith said it was “obvious to even a lay person” that Nichols “was in terrible distress and needed help.”

“And they failed to provide that help,” Smith said. “They were his best shot, and they failed to help.”

Sandridge and Long had both been fired Jan. 30. At the time, officials said a span of 27 minutes elapsed from the time the EMTs arrived on the scene to the moment when an ambulance left the location of the arrest to take Nichols to a hospital.

The two EMTs were joined at the arrest location by a third fire department employee, Lt. Michelle Whitaker, who officials said remained in the fire engine with the driver during the response to Nichols’ beating. She has been fired, but it was not immediately clear Thursday if the state board would take any action towards a suspension of her license.