Memphis police lieutenant who was on scene of Tyre Nichols’ violent beating retired with benefits

Memphis police lieutenant who was on scene of Tyre Nichols’ violent beating retired with benefits

The Memphis police supervisor at the scene when Tire Nichols was beaten to death by officers was stripped of his benefits a day before a hearing to fire him, according to documents filed to revoke his law enforcement certificate.

Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified Friday in records obtained by the media as the officer who officials said earlier this month had retired ahead of a termination hearing.

Some members of the Memphis City Council were upset that an officer was allowed to retire before steps were taken to fire them, including council Vice President JB Smiley Jr., who said it didn’t seem fair that the officer unidentified then could keep his pension and other benefits.

“I just don’t like the fact that his parents are paying this officer to keep living and that’s disturbing,” Smiley said.

Image from video released by the city of Memphis shows police officers speaking after a brutal attack on Tire Nichols on January 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols died on January 10 from his injuries. City of Memphis via AP

The attorney for Nichols’ family said the department should not have let Smith “cowardly ignore the consequences of his actions” and retire after 25 years.

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“We call on the Memphis police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and all those involved fully accountable,” said attorney Ben Crump.

Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols died following a Jan. 7 traffic stop, and five of them are charged with second-degree murder. Smith is not charged in Nichols’ death.

Nichols, 29, was pulled from his car as an officer threatened to shock him with a Taser. He ran but was chased. The video showed five officers holding him down and hitting him repeatedly with 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” while he was leaning against a squad car, but failed to give him medical attention or remove his handcuffs, according to the report.

Smith also did not take reports from other officers about the use of force and told Nichols’ family that he was driving under the influence even though he had no information to support a charge, the documents said. Investigators said Smith determined without evidence that Nichols was drugged or intoxicated, and video captured him telling Nichols “you got something” when he arrived at the scene.

Additionally, Smith was not wearing his body camera — violating police department policy. His actions were captured on other officers’ body cameras, the documents said.

The US Department of Justice is reviewing the Memphis Police Department’s use of force policies, de-escalation strategies and specialized units in response to Nichols’ death.

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