The screen at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans honors Tire Nichols ahead of an NBA basketball game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Washington Wizards in January. Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Memphis Police Superintendent on scene when Tire Nichols was beaten to death the day before a hearing to try him out by officers who backed down with his benefits, according to documents filed to grant his law enforcement license withdraw.
Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified Friday in records obtained by the media as the officer whom officials said earlier this month retired ahead of his resignation 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 chairman JB Smiley Jr., who said it didn’t seem fair that the then unidentified official could keep his pension and other benefits.
“I just don’t like that his parents are paying this officer to move on and live and that’s disturbing,” Smiley said.
The Nichols family attorney said the department should not have let Smith “cowardly dodge the consequences of his actions” and retire after 25 years.
“We are urging police and Memphis officials to do everything in their power to secure Lt. Smith and everyone involved fully accountable,” said attorney Ben Crump.
Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols died Jan. 7 following a traffic stop, and five of them face second-degree murder charges. Smith will not be charged over Nichols’ death.
Nichols, 29, was roughly pulled from his car when an officer threatened to taser him. He ran away but was followed. The video showed five officers holding him down and repeatedly hitting him with their fists, boots and batons while he yelled 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” as he was propped against a squad car, but failed to give him medical attention or remove his handcuffs, according to the report.
Smith also received no reports from other officers of the use of force and told Nichols’ family that he was driving under the influence, although there was no information to support a charge, the documents said. Investigators said Smith ruled without evidence that Nichols was using drugs or was drunk, and video caught him telling Nichols “you took something” when he arrived at the scene.
Additionally, Smith was not wearing his body camera — a violation of police department guidelines. His actions were captured on other officers’ body cameras, documents said.
The US Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Memphis Police Department’s policies regarding the use of force, de-escalation strategies and special forces in response to Nichols’ death.