Documents show MPD lieutenant retired day before disciplinary hearing over Tyre Nichols’ death

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 12:38 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 18, 2023 at 2:19 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A newly-released decertification request lays out the involvement of a now-retired Memphis police lieutenant in the traffic stop made on the night Tyre Nichols was beaten.

Lt. Dewayne Smith retired March 1 after 25 years on the force.

He was able to retire in lieu of termination. Memphis police say Smith violated policies of neglect of duty, unauthorized public statements and compliance with regulations. Those administrative charges were filed on February 22, and Smith was due for a hearing on March 2.

Smith did not appear at the hearing due to his retirement a day prior.

Former Lieutenant DeWayne Smith was the on-scene supervisor January 7th and responded to Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove after Tyre Nichols was beaten by officers.

“Anybody who had anything to do with the brutal killing a Tyre Nichols should be held fully accountable and should not be given any kind of special exit plan want whatsoever,” said Tyre Nichols family’s attorney Ben Crump.

Documents from MPD show, Smith concluded that Nichols’ behavior after the beating while he was on the ground handcuffed was a result of drugs or alcohol.

Smith can be heard on body camera video in this clip saying, “You done took something, mane.”

Investigators also say Smith failed to get information from his fellow officers on use-of-force, even though he told investigators he saw injuries to Nichols’ face and mouth.

The documents state Smith witnessed Nichols say “I can’t breathe,” before he slumped over, but did not direct an officer to remove the cuffs or call for emergency medical personnel to provide care.

Investigators say he walked away and instructed officers to clear the scene before an investigative agency could notified.

Investigators also say a civilian also found Nichols’ clothing on the ground after he’d been taken away by medical personnel and moved it to another location nearby and notified officers. They say this delayed investigators in locating evidence.

The department charged him with “neglect of duty” for failing to command the scene.

Smith was also charged with making unauthorized public statements to Nichols’ family and told them Tyre was charged with a DUI, but investigators say Smith didn’t have information on scene to confirm those charges and no arrest documentation to support it.

Investigators say Smith did not wear his body-worn camera that night, breaking MPD’s compliance with regulations policy.

His actions were recorded on other officers’ body worn cameras.

During a Memphis City Council committee meeting on March 7, some councilors expressed concern over Smith being able to retire and still be eligible for pension.

“I don’t know the extent of what he or she has done, but what I do know is, they played a part in something that played out very publicly and ultimately led to life being taken from a young man,” said Memphis City Council Vice-Chairman JB Smiley, Jr. “And I just don’t like the fact that his parents are paying this officer to go on and live and that’s troubling.”

Former Memphis Police Association attorney Ted Hansom says someone could take legal action against Smith, but it’s unlikely that would affect him receiving his pension.

“It’s going to be difficult to show that whatever he did or didn’t do, and it could be an act of omission would void 25 years or more of good service,” said Hansom. “In other words, he had earned and invested that pension.”

One week after Smith received notice he was being charged by the department for violating policies, Smith notified MPD of his retirement in a letter on February 28th saying, “Retirement from the department was not an easy decision. I came to realize that the time has come to move on.”

Both Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci issued the following statement in response to the Memphis police lieutenant retiring the day before the disciplinary hearing over Nichols’ death:

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