In light of news that the top cop on the scene of Tyre Nichols’ fatal beating had been allowed to retire before facing a disciplinary hearing that could have resulted in his firing, the family’s lawyers have spoken out.
In a joint statement shared via email, attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci criticized the Memphis Police Department for having “allowed and accepted” Lt. Dewayne Smith to retire.
“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,” Crump and Romanucci said over the weekend. “Further, police reports indicate Smith failed to fully assess the scene, or examine the facts behind the officers’ narrative, which was false.”
Per a report from the Associated Press, Smith—who has not been charged in connection with the killing of Nichols—was confirmed to be the officer in question last Friday after multiple publications cited documents as revealing the previously unidentified officer’s identity. Many were quick to call out this order of events, including local politicians.
Other officers involved in Nichols’ death were fired in January, with all five later pleading not guilty to subsequent charges, second-degree murder among them. Now, Nichols’ family and their lawyers are urging city officials to not let this newly confirmed retirement serve as a way for Smith to avoid facing his own accountability.
“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,” Crump and Romanucci, who said they and Nichols’ family were “deeply disturbed” by this latest development, added. “His cowardice in resigning and not facing his own disciplinary board to defend himself is not an end-around on accountability or reckoning.”
This month, the Department of Justice announced it would be leading an investigation into Memphis police tactics following Nichols’ death. This review of the department’s policies on use of force and de-escalation was directly requested by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the chief, per the DOJ.