Reports: Memphis Police Lt. Retired Before Nichols Hearing 

March 20, 2023

A Memphis Police Lieutenant involved in the deadly Tyre Nichols traffic stop retired ahead of a discplinary hearing to fire him, according to reports.

DeWayne Smith, a 25-year Memphis Police veteran, was the on-scene supervisor the night of January 7, according to documents obtained by several news outlets. That’s when a handcuffed Tyre Nichols was beaten by police officers following an alleged traffic stop and died in a hospital three days later.

All five Memphis police officers caught on video beating Nichols—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr.—were fired and have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

While Smith has not been criminally charged, disciplinary charges against him allege he did not provide Nichols with appropriate medical care during the incident even as Nichols said, “I can’t breathe.”

According to documents, Smith was accused of neglect of duty, making unauthorized public statements, and violating department policy by not wearing a body camera.

Smith submitted his retirement on March 1, one day before officials at a hearing held in his absence reportedly determined that he should be fired. 

A total of 13 officers have come under investigation for their conduct surrounding Nichols’ arrest. The Memphis Fire Department fired three EMTs, while another member of the Fire Department was suspended. 

The five criminally charged officers were members of the Memphis Police Department’s since-disbanded elite “Scorpion” unit. It had been created in 2021 in response to Memphis’ quickly-rising homicide numbers, but residents soon complained of its heavy-handed tactics. 

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services said it would take part in a review of the Memphis Police Department that was requested by the city.

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