(Reuters) – A Memphis police lieutenant involved in the traffic control that led to the death of Tire Nichols in January, according to media reports, filed for retirement before a disciplinary hearing was held to have him fired.
Documents obtained by several news outlets identified DeWayne Smith, a 25-year veteran of the city’s police department, as the on-site supervisor on the night of Jan. 7, when officers kicked and punched Nichols while he was handcuffed.
Nichols, an unarmed black man, died in hospital three days later.
The former lieutenant filed for retirement on March 1, a day before officials determined at a hearing in his absence that he should have been fired, according to reports.
Smith was not immediately available for comment.
Disciplinary charges against Smith alleged that he failed to provide Nichols with proper medical care, even after hearing the man say, “I can’t breathe.”
Smith was charged with dereliction 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 retire thinking he’s going to escape the consequences of his actions… We’re not going to let that happen,” Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells said at an event in New York City on Saturday.
Five officers, all black, have been charged criminally with manslaughter, 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 been investigated for their conduct in Nichols’ arrest, according to authorities. Three members of the Memphis Fire Department were also fired and one was suspended.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani; editing by Daniel Wallis)