MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis police supervisor on the scene when Tire Nichols was beaten to death by officers walked out the day before a hearing to fire him, according to documents filed to revoke his police certification.
Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified Friday in records obtained by news outlets as the officer who officials said earlier this month had withdrawn before his dismissal hearing.
Some Memphis City Council members were upset that an officer was allowed to retire before steps could be taken to fire them, including council Vice President JB Smiley Jr., who said it didn’t seem fair that the then-unnamed officer I could keep the pension. and other benefits.
“I just don’t like the fact that this officer is being paid by his parents to keep him living and that’s concerning,” Smiley said.
The Nichols family’s attorney said the department should not have allowed Smith to “cowardly evade the consequences of his actions” and retire after 25 years.
“We call on Memphis police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and everyone involved fully accountable,” attorney Ben Crump said.
Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols died following a traffic stop on January 7 and five of them are charged with second-degree murder. Smith is not charged in Nichols’ death.
Nichols, 29, was jerked out of his car when an officer threatened to shock him with a Taser. He ran, but they chased him. The video showed that five officers held him down and beat him repeatedly with their fists, boots and batons as he yelled 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” while leaning against a police car, but was unable to get medical attention or remove the handcuffs, according to the report.
Smith also received no reports of use of force from other officers and told Nichols’ family that he was driving under the influence despite no information to support a charge, according to the documents. Investigators said Smith decided without evidence that Nichols was high or drunk and video captured him telling Nichols “you had something” when he arrived on the scene.
Additionally, Smith did not wear his body camera, in violation of police department policy. His actions were captured on other officers’ body cameras, according to the documents.
The US Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Memphis Police Department’s policies on use of force, de-escalation strategies, and specialized units in response to the death of Nichols.