MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Decertification documents for the five Memphis police officers fired and charged following the death of Tyre Nichols show one of the officers made a personal statement about the traffic stop.
Former officer Justin Smith said on the day in question, he was supposed to be on desk duty due to an on-the-job knee injury he suffered the day before, but a supervisor told him to be on patrol.
Smith said while on stationary observation duties, as directed, dispatch said an officer needed assistance after an officer attempted to investigate a traffic stop. Smith said it was stated in the radio dispatch that Nichols had been tased, sprayed with OC spray and fled the scene.
“Even though no one else requested medical assistance, because of the reported tasing and chemical spray, I immediately made a radio call and indicated that medical should be sent to the area where the suspect was last seen to possibly render medical aid if the suspect was taken into custody,” said Smith. “I then came upon an officer taking what was later learned to be the same suspect to the ground. I assisted that officer in our attempts to take that suspect into custody. The suspect was violent and would not comply.”
In the statement, Smith said he categorically denied utilizing any defensive weapons other than OC spray. He said the OC spray was only used after another officer attempted to use OC spray on Nichols and inadvertently sprayed himself.
Smith said he was not sure whether the spray was effective when used.
“I continued to struggle with the actively resisting suspect to gain control of said suspect because he had only one arm/wrist handcuffed. Despite the effects of the OC spray in my eyes and experiencing excruciating pain in my knee, officers were finally able to place the suspect in custody,” said Smith. “After the suspect was handcuffed, I then removed myself from the immediate vicinity as my knee was in severe pain. When I returned to the immediate area, I informed my fellow officers to assist me in sitting the suspect against my squad car for the suspect to breathe better.”
Smith went on to say by then, medical personnel was on the scene providing direct medical care and discussing the suspect’s treatment with his lieutenant, who had arrived on the scene.
“As it relates to the use of my body worn camera, dispatch records will show that a very short period of time elapsed from the time the initial call went out to the time that I inadvertently came upon the other officer attempting to subdue the suspect. I did not immediately turn my body worn camera on as I was getting out of my car, but I did turn it on as I interacted with the suspect. I did not intentionally fail to activate my body worn camera, but the safety of other officers and myself was paramount,” said Smith.
The Memphis Police department has submitted documents to a state board for the five former officers — Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., Justin Smith, Demetrius Haley, and Tadarrius Bean — to be decertified following Nichols’s death.
On Jan. 7, several MPD officers pulled over 29-year-old Nichols in his Hickory Hill neighborhood.
Bodycam and SkyCop video showed officers kicking, hitting, and pepper-spraying Nichols before dragging him across the pavement and propping him up against a patrol car until medical help arrived.
Nichols died three days later in the hospital, and all five officers were charged with second-degree murder.
A sixth officer involved in the traffic stop was fired Friday. So far, Preston Hemphill is not facing any criminal charges.
Tuesday, the city’s chief legal officer said seven more officers are facing disciplinary action.