(AP) – Memphis police chief at the scene when Tyre Nichols was beaten to death by officers who retired with his benefits the day before his firing hearing, according to documents filed to revoke his law enforcement certification.
Lieutenant DeWayne Smith was identified Friday in records obtained by the media as the officer who officials said earlier this month had resigned prior to his discharge hearing.
Some members of the Memphis City Council were upset that an officer was allowed to retire before steps could be taken to fire them, including Council Vice Chairman J. B. Smiley, Jr., who said it was unfair that then an as yet unnamed officer could keep his pension. and other benefits.
“I just don’t like the fact that his parents are paying this officer to keep him alive, and it’s disturbing,” Smiley said.
A lawyer for the Nichols family 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 Lieutenant Smith and everyone involved to full account,” said lawyer Ben Kramp.
Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols died following a traffic stop on January 7, and five of them were charged with second-degree murder. Smith is not blamed for Nichols’ death.
Nichols, 29, was roughly pulled out of the car when an officer threatened to taser him. He fled but was pursued. The video shows five officers holding him down and hitting him repeatedly with fists, boots and clubs as he screamed for his mother.
Lieutenant Smith’s recertification documents reveal additional details about his actions that night.
Smith overheard Nichols say “I can’t breathe” as he was pinned against a patrol car, but according to the report, he was not given medical treatment or removed his handcuffs.
Smith also received no reports from other officers of the use of force and told Nichols’ family that he was drunk driving, although there was no information to support the charge, the documents say. Investigators said Smith assumed without evidence that Nichols was drugged or drunk, and the video showed him telling Nichols, “You took something,” when he arrived at the scene.
In addition, Smith was not wearing a body camera, which violated police department regulations. His actions were recorded by other officers’ body cameras, the documents say.
The U.S. Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Memphis Police Department’s policies regarding the use of force, de-escalation strategies, and specialized units in response to Nichols’ death.