Nineteen minutes is basically enough time to watch a sitcom without commercials, cook a frozen pizza in the oven at 400 degrees, or walk one mile at a leisurely pace. But somehow within the first 19 minutes that EMTs Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge were on the scene after 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was severely beaten by Memphis police, they provided Nichols no medical care.
Though they assisted Nichols—slumped over on the ground and handcuffed—in sitting up a few times, they did not take his vital signs, provide him oxygen, or even give him a physical examination. Sandridge, who is certified to administer IV lines and monitor cardiac activity as an advanced EMT, did neither, an investigation concluded.
Nichols died three days later from injuries sustained in the Jan. 7 beating, which was initiated by a traffic stop. Police body camera footage depicts police holding him down, kicking him, and punching him as he called out for help from his mother who lived nearby.
On Friday, the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Board voted unanimously to suspend Long and Sandridge’s EMT licenses, based on this information.
Dennis Rowe, a member of the board, said there was “every reason to believe” that the lack of action by Long and Sandridge in those first 19 minutes “may have contributed to the demise of that patient.”
Board member Sullivan Smith added it was “obvious to even a lay person” that Nichols “was in terrible distress and needed help.”
“They were his best shot,” Smith said. “And they failed to help.”
Earlier this week, Memphis Fire Department chief Gina Sweat fired Long and Sandridge. The chief also fired lieutenant Michelle Whitaker, who had been driving the fire truck and never left the vehicle to help. “After concluding our internal investigation, it was determined that EMT-B Long, EMT-A Sandridge and Lt. Whitaker violated numerous MFD Policies and Protocols,” Sweat said in a statement.
The Memphis Police Department also announced Friday that it had fired police officer Preston Hemphill, who was at the scene of the initial traffic stop of Nichols. Hemphill was the sixth police officer to be fired over the incident. The earlier five were charged with second-degree murder.
Hemphill’s lawyer said that his client “was never present at the second scene,” where Nichols was beaten. Hemphill’s body camera footage, however, shows the first police confrontation with Nichols, during which Hemphill used his taser. Later in the footage, a voice seeming to be Hemphill’s says, “I hope they stomp his ass.”