Former Memphis police supervisor in Tire Nichols death retired with benefits before he could be fired
The Memphis police supervisor at the scene when Tire Nichols was beaten to death by officers in January retired with his benefits the day before a hearing to fire him.
Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified Friday as the officer who retired just before his dismissal hearing, according to documents filed to revoke his law enforcement certification.
Members of the Memphis City Council expressed frustration that an officer was allowed to retire ahead of attempts to fire him. Board Vice Chairman JB Smiley Jr. said it didn’t seem fair that the officer could keep his pension and other benefits.
“I just don’t like the fact that [Nichols’] the parents are paying this officer to continue living and it’s troubling,” Smiley said.
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Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump said the police department should not have allowed Smith to “cowardly avoid the consequences of his actions” and retire.
“We call on police and officials in Memphis to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and everyone involved fully accountable,” Crump said.
Seven other Memphis police officers were fired for the traffic stop that led to Nichols’ death. Five of those officers — Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Tadarrius Bean, Justin Smith and Emmitt Martin III — have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’ death, but Smith has not been charged.
Nichols was pulled over by police for alleged “reckless driving” on January 7 and was roughly pulled from his car as officers threatened to shock him with a Taser. Officers claimed a “confrontation occurred” during the traffic stop and Nichols attempted to flee the scene on foot. Officers caught up to Nichols and began kicking, punching and hitting him with a baton as he screamed for his mother.
During the beating, Nichols complained of shortness of breath. He was taken to hospital in critical condition and died on January 10.
Decertification documents against Smith show he heard Nichols say “I can’t breathe” as he leaned against a police cruiser, but Smith did not give him medical attention or remove his handcuffs, indicates the report.
Smith also did not receive reports from other officers about the use of force and told Nichols’ family that the victim was driving under the influence despite no evidence to support a charge, according to the documents. Investigators said Smith claimed, without evidence, that Nichols was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Video from the scene captured Smith saying to Nichols “you took something.”
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Smith’s actions were captured on other officers’ body cameras since Smith was not wearing his body camera, a violation of police department policy.
The US Department of Justice is reviewing Memphis Police Department policies on the use of force, de-escalation strategies and specialized units in response to Nichols’ death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.