MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) – The Memphis police supervisor at the scene where Tire Nichols was beaten to death by retired officers with his benefits the day before a hearing to fire him, according to documents filed to rescind his law enforcement certification.
Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified in documents obtained by media Friday as the officer officials said earlier this month had retired 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- unidentified could keep his pension and other benefits.
“I just don’t like the fact that his parents are paying this agent to continue living and that’s worrying,” Smiley said.
Nichols’ family attorney said the department should not have allowed Smith to “cowardly avoid the consequences of his actions” and retire after 25 years.
“We are calling on Memphis Police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and all those involved fully accountable,” Attorney Ben Crump said.
Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols’ death following a traffic stop on Jan. 7 and five of them are facing second-degree murder charges. Smith is not charged in Nichols’ death.
Nichols, 29, was abruptly pulled from his car when an officer threatened to hit him with a Taser. He ran away, but was chased. The video showed five officers holding him down and repeatedly hitting him with their fists, boots and batons as he screamed for his mother.
The decertification documents against Lt. Smith reveal more details about his actions that night.
Smith heard Nichols say “I can’t breathe” while leaning against a police car, but failed to get him medical attention or remove the handcuffs, according to the report.
Smith also received no reports from other officers about the use of force and told Nichols’ family he was driving under the influence even though there was no information to support a charge, the documents said. Detectives said Smith decided without evidence that Nichols was on drugs or drunk and video captured him telling Nichols “you took something” when he arrived on the scene.
Additionally, Smith did not wear his body camera, violating police department policy. His actions were captured on other officers’ body cameras, the documents said.
The U.S. Justice Department is currently reviewing the Memphis Police Department’s policies on use of force, de-escalation strategies, and specialized units in response to Nichols’ death.