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Outrage Over Memphis Police Lt. Retiring Before Disciplinary Hearing for Tyre Nichols Death

The Memphis Police Department’s decision to accept the retirement of Lt. Dewayne Smith, one day before his disciplinary hearing in relation to the death of Tyre Nichols, has been met with outrage from the Nichols family and their legal team. Smith was the highest-ranking officer on the scene at the time of Nichols' death and is accused of failing to render medical attention or assess the scene.[0]

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Nichols’ family, said in a tweet, “It is extremely disturbing that [the Memphis Police Department] accepted the retirement of this senior officer!”

According to documents, Smith failed to get the 29-year-old medical care or remove his handcuffs, despite hearing him say, “I can’t breathe”.[1] Smith also allegedly made 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.[2]

Video of the nighttime incident showed Nichols being pulled from his car as police officers shout commands, beat him and pepper sprayed him before tasing him.[3] Following the incident, five officers were fired and now face a variety of criminal charges.[4] Two Memphis police officers and three members of the Memphis Fire Department were terminated for their involvement in the incident.[5]

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: “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.[0] His cowardice in resigning and not facing his own disciplinary board to defend himself is not an end-around on accountability or reckoning.[0]

0. “Documents show MPD lieutenant retired day before disciplinary hearing over Tyre Nichols’ death” Action News 5, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.actionnews5.com/2023/03/17/documents-show-mpd-lieutenant-retired-day-before-termination-hearing-over-tyre-nichols-death

1. “Police supervisor in Tyre Nichols' death retired with benefits day prior to termination hearing: reports” Yahoo News, 19 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/police-supervisor-tyre-nichols-death-001645916.html

2. “Tyre Nichols' family ‘deeply disturbed' after Memphis police lieutenant retires before disciplinary hearing about his …” Yahoo! Voices, 18 Mar. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/news/tyre-nichols-family-deeply-disturbed-184408530.html

3. “What’s the Hold Up? Release of Additional Tyre Nichols Footage Delayed” Yahoo Life, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/hold-release-additional-tyre-nichols-140930889.html

4. “Beaufort responds to the death of Tyre Nichols. Can it happen here?” Charleston Post Courier, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.postandcourier.com/hilton-head/beaufort-responds-to-the-death-of-tyre-nichols-can-it-happen-here/article_1d130474-bdf0-11ed-8fd8-47b434c81637.html

5. “Memphis lieutenant, involved in Tyre Nichols’ death, retires a day before being fired” MyStateline.com, 18 Mar. 2023, https://www.mystateline.com/news/national/memphis-lieutenant-involved-in-tyre-nichols-death-retires-a-day-before-being-fired/

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