MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A former Memphis Police lieutenant who was the on-scene supervisor during the traffic stop that led to Tyre Nichols’ death retired this month after an investigation that recommended his termination, new documents show.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci issued the following statement:
“The Nichols family and their legal team are deeply disturbed that Memphis Police allowed and accepted the retirement of Lt. Dewayne Smith, in light of his immediately pending disciplinary hearing for his decisions and behavior related to Tyre Nichols’ death. We believe Lt. Smith was the highest-ranking officer at the scene after the brutal beating, and we’ve seen that Smith observed Tyre’s dire medical condition and did not render or direct immediate medical attention. Further, police reports indicate Smith failed to fully assess the scene, or examine the facts behind the officers’ narrative, which was false. Tyre’s parents believe Smith was one of the first officers who came to their house and told them about Tyre’s beating, said Tyre was involved in a DUI or on drugs, and did not tell them about the severity of the situation or allow them to see their son. In fact, Tyre’s mother asked if she could see her son in the hospital and Lt. Smith told her no. We call for Memphis police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and all of those involved fully accountable and not allow Lt. Smith to cowardly sidestep the consequences of his actions. His cowardice in resigning and not facing his own disciplinary board to defend himself is not an end-around on accountability or reckoning.”
According to an internal investigation into the events of Jan. 7, Lt. DeWayne Smith arrived on the scene in Hickory Hill and was told officers tased and pepper sprayed Nichols. But Smith failed to ask officers why there was blood on Nichols’ face, or determine how much force they had used, the investigation documents show.
When Nichols said “I can’t breathe” and slumped over while in handcuffs, Smith failed to direct any officers to remove the cuffs so emergency medical personnel could provide care.
Smith concluded that Nichols’ condition was the result of having consumed intoxicants, and told him “You done took something, mane,” though Nichols told the officer he had not taken anything. He later was heard telling family members that Nichols was in custody for DUI.
The investigators stated that Smith walked away from the active scene before an ambulance arrived and did not document the incident in detail in his report or to investigators. At one point, investigators said, Smith instructed officers to clear the scene of evidence before an investigative bureau was notified.
Investigators said he also did not wear a body-worn camera, as required.
Smith was administratively charged with neglect of duty, making unauthorized public statements and failure to comply with regulations. A summary form from a hearing held on March 2 shows that he would have faced termination for one of the charges and suspensions for the other two.
Smith announced his retirement in a letter written on March 1, effective the same day. He stated he “came to realize that the time has come to move on.”
Smith had been with the department since 1998. Records show he had previously faced a suspension in 1999 and written reprimand in 2000, for personal conduct and for excessive force.
The City of Memphis has requested the state Peace Officer Standards and Training commission to decertify Smith as an officer.
Six other officers were terminated as a result of the investigations. Five are facing criminal charges.