The Memphis police supervisor on scene when Tyre Nichols was beaten to death by officers retired with his benefits the day before a hearing to fire him, according to documents filed to revoke his law enforcement certification.
Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified Friday in records obtained by media outlets as the officer that officials said earlier this month had retired before his termination hearing.
Some Memphis City Council members were upset an officer was allowed to retire before steps could be taken to fire them, including the council’s vice-chairman JB Smiley Jr., who said it didn’t seem fair that the then-unidentified officer could keep pension and other benefits.
“I just don’t like the fact that his parents are paying this officer to go on and live and that’s troubling,” Smiley said.
The attorney for Nichols’ family said the department should not have let Smith “cowardly sidestep the consequences of his actions” and retire after 25 years.
“We call for Memphis police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and all of those involved fully accountable,” attorney Ben Crump said.
Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols died following a traffic stop on Jan. 7 and five of them are charged with second-degree murder. Smith is not charged in Nichols’ death.
Nichols, 29, was pulled roughly from his car as an officer threatened to shock him with a Taser. He ran, but was chased down. Video showed five officers held him down and repeatedly struck him with their fists, boots and batons as he screamed for his mother.
The decertification documents against Lt. Smith reveal additional details about his actions that night.
Smith heard Nichols say “I can’t breathe” as he was propped up against a squad car, but failed to get him medical care or remove his handcuffs, according to the report.
Smith also didn’t get reports from other officers about using force and told Nichols’ family he was driving under the influence even though there was no information to support a charge, the documents said. Investigators said Smith decided without evidence that Nichols was on drugs or drunk and video captured him telling Nichols “you done took something” when he arrived at the scene.
Additionally, Smith did not wear his body camera — violating police department policy. His actions were captured on the body cameras of other officers, documents said.
The U.S. Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Memphis Police Department policies on the use of force, de-escalation strategies and specialized units in response to Nichols’ death.
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