A lieutenant in the Memphis Police Department has now been identified as being at the scene after the arrest of Tyre Nichols, and according to police files obtained by CNN, chose to retire earlier this month prior to a disciplinary hearing on the case where he would have been fired.
In a letter from February 28, notarized by the agency’s Human Resources department, Lt. Dewayne Smith wrote, “It has been an honor to serve the city that I call my home for the past 25 years. During these years I have been blessed to some challenging assignments with some great people.”
Previously, Smith had not been publicly identified as having been at the scene of the incident. He is alleged to have arrived at the scene and did not immediately “take command” in a supervisory role.
Smith had been with the department since 1998 and would have been the most senior officer at the scene.
In documents dated January 27, a month before Smith’s resignation, he was advised of the disciplinary charges against him and a hearing was set for March.
Smith has not been criminally charged in connection to Nichols’ death.
Nichols, 29, was repeatedly punched and kicked by several Memphis police officers during a traffic stop on January 7. He was hospitalized after the traffic stop and died three days later.
Five officers who were later fired from the department face criminal charges of second-degree murder, among others. They entered not guilty pleas in February and are due back in court in May.
Hearing says Smith failed in several responsibilities
The disciplinary hearing was held for Smith on March 2 in his absence and officials determined Smith should have been terminated for his role on the day of Nichols’ beating.
In a police department statement of disciplinary charges document dated March 10, Smith is alleged to have “failed to obtain pertinent information from officers involved in a critical use of force incident.”
“You did not ask important questions such as the amount or type of force used by each of your officers involved that would have assisted in a prompt and thorough scene investigation…,” the document says.
The document goes on to say that in his statement to investigators, Smith “did not provide or suggest immediate medical aid” despite seeing blood coming from Nichols’ face.
“Directly upon your arrival, you were told officers pepper sprayed and tased the subject, but you never asked why blood was on his face. At approximately 20:44 hours and after you arrived, the victim said ‘I can’t breathe’ before he slumped over while still in handcuffs. You failed to direct any officer to remove the cuffs in order for the first emergency medical personnel to provide initial care.”
The document alleges Smith questioned Nichols as his medical condition worsened “and only concluded his behavior was a result of intoxicants by saying ‘You done took something, mane,’” the document reads.
According to the documents, Smith had been charged with neglect of duty, unauthorized public statements, and compliance with regulations. The documents also reveal that Smith spoke with family members of Nichols, along with another officer.
“You can be heard on another officer’s body camera telling family members that the subject was in custody for D.U.I. You did not obtain enough information on the scene to confirm those criminal charges and there was no arrest documentation to support your assumption,” the document says. “The limited details given to the family member can be perceived as an unsupported accusation or a method of deception and hindered public confidence.”
The Daily Memphian was the first to report the story.
In his retirement letter, Smith said it “was not an easy decision. I came to realize that the time has come to move on.”
CNN has reached out to the Memphis Police Association for comment.