The police supervisor who responded to the scene of Tyre Nichols’ arrest retired with benefits the day before his termination hearing, according to media reports.
Lt. DeWayne Smith, who spent 25 years on the Memphis police force, was facing disciplinary charges for neglect of duty, unauthorized public statements and compliance with regulations, when he submitted his retirement on March 1, Memphis’ Action News 5 reported. His disciplinary hearing was scheduled for March 2.
During the Jan. 7 arrest that ultimately led to Nichols’ death, Smith failed to get the 29-year-old medical care or remove his handcuffs, despite hearing him say, “I can’t breathe,” according to NBC News.
Nichols was brutally beaten by several Memphis police officers during the early January traffic stop and died three days later from his injuries. Despite noticing Nichols’ injuries, Smith failed to obtain reports from the other officers about their use of force.
Smith also told Nichols’ family that he had been driving under the influence, even though no evidence supported such a conclusion, and he failed to wear his body camera during the arrest in violation of the department’s policy, NBC News reported.
“It is extremely disturbing that [the Memphis Police Department] accepted the retirement of this senior officer!” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Nichols’ family, said in a tweet.
“Memphis police and officials should do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith accountable and not let his cowardice in resigning sidestep the consequences of his actions!” he added.
Seven officers were fired over Nichols’ death, including five who were charged with second-degree murder. Three members of the Memphis Fire Department were also terminated over their failure to provide Nichols with medical care.
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This story was originally published March 18, 2023, 8:16 PM.