A high-ranking Memphis police officer on the scene after the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols retired ahead of a hearing that would have determined whether or not he would have been fired for his response, according to court documents.
Nichols was pulled over on Jan. 7 in Memphis’ Hickory Hill neighborhood on allegations of reckless driving. He was repeatedly punched, tased and kicked by police during the traffic stop and required hospitalization. He died three days later.
According to an internal investigation into the deadly arrest, Memphis police Lt. Dewayne Smith responded to the scene after Nichols was beaten and detained.
The 29-year-old father was already in handcuffs and slumped against a police cruiser when Smith arrived, but the officer did not ask about the use of force implemented nor why Nichols’ face was bloodied, documents obtained by CNN show.
Smith had been with the department since 1998 and would have been the most senior officer present. He’s accused of failing to “take command” in a supervisory role at the scene of the Nichols’ arrest.
Smith was notified in documents dated Jan. 27 that he’d face disciplinary charges in connection with the violent traffic stop. However, he filed for retirement on Feb. 28, just two days before he was scheduled to appear at a disciplinary hearing.
“It has been an honor to serve the city that I call my home for the past 25 years,” Smith wrote in a notarized letter to the Human Resources Department. “During these years, I have been blessed to some challenging assignments with some great people.”
During the disciplinary hearing held for Smith — despite his absence — officials determined he should have been terminated for his actions on the day of Nichols’ beating.
“Directly upon your arrival, you were told officers pepper-sprayed and tased the subject, but you never asked why blood was on his face,” read documents outlining his disciplinary charges.
“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.”