Tyra Nichols’ death chief retired before being fired

MEMPHIS, Tennessee. – Memphis Police Supervisor at the scene Tyr Nichols was beaten to death by officers who had retired with his benefits a day before his firing hearing, according to documents filed to revoke his law enforcement certification.

Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified Friday in records obtained by the media as the officer who officials said resigned before his firing hearing.

Some members of the Memphis City Council were upset that the officer was allowed to resign before action could be taken to fire them, including Council Vice Chairman J.B. and other benefits.

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

A lawyer for Nichols’ family said the department should not have allowed Smith to “cowardly sidestep the consequences of his actions” and retire after 25 years.

“We urge the Memphis police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and everyone 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 was 29 years old roughly pulled from the car when the officer threatened to taser him. He ran, but was caught. The video showed five officers holding him down and hitting him repeatedly with fists, boots and batons as he screamed at his mother.

Lt. Smith’s decertification documents reveal more details about his actions that night.

Smith heard Nichols say, “I can’t breathe,” as he was being held against the police car, but was unable to give him medical attention or remove his handcuffs, the report said.

Smith also failed to receive use-of-force reports from other officers and told Nichols’ family that he was driving under the influence, even though there was no information to support the allegation, the documents said. Investigators said Smith decided without evidence that Nichols was drugged or intoxicated, and the video captured him telling Nichols, “you took something,” when he arrived at the scene.

Additionally, Smith was not wearing a body camera, violating police department policy. According to the documents, his actions were recorded on body cameras of other officers.

The US Department of Justice is currently 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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