Lieutenant in Tyre Nichols' death retired before termination hearing -reports

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[March 20, 2023]   (Reuters) - A lieutenant with the Memphis Police Department involved in the traffic stop that led to the killing of Tyre Nichols in January filed for retirement before a disciplinary hearing to fire him, according to media reports.

A view of a picture of Tyre Nichols during a news conference held by the family members of Nichols, the Black man who was beaten by Memphis police officers during a traffic stop and died three days later, at Mason Temple: Church of God in Christ World Headquarters, in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S., January 31, 2023. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer/File Photo

Documents obtained by several news outlets identified DeWayne Smith, a 25-year veteran of the city's police force, as the on-scene supervisor on the night of Jan. 7, when officers kicked and punched Nichols while he was handcuffed.

Nichols, an unarmed Black man, died in the hospital three days later.

The former lieutenant submitted his retirement on March 1, a day before officials at a hearing held in his absence determined he should have been fired, according to the reports.

Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.

Disciplinary charges against Smith alleged he did not provide Nichols with appropriate medical care even as he heard the man say "I can't breathe."

Smith was accused of neglect of duty, making unauthorized public statements, and violating department policy by not wearing his body camera, according to the documents cited by news outlets.

"For that lieutenant to be able to retire thinking that he's going to escape the consequences of his actions ... We're not going to let that happen," Nichols' stepfather Rodney Wells said during an event in New York City on Saturday.

Five officers, all Black, have been criminally charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression for Nichols' death. They all pleaded not guilty.

Smith has not been charged in Nichols' death.

A total of 13 officers have come under investigation for their conduct in Nichols' arrest, authorities have said. Three members of the Memphis Fire Department were also fired and one was suspended.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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