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Officer who retired before termination hearing in Tyre Nichols case faces decertification

Courtesy Kris Volker

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — The Memphis Police Department said it will move to decertify a former police officer who retired with benefits ahead of a possible termination hearing over the death of Tyre Nichols, police officials said Thursday. The decertification would cause the officer to lose all law enforcement-related licenses or certificates due to alleged misconduct.

Lt. DeWayne Smith, who was at the scene of the traffic stop where Nichols was brutally beaten by officers in January, is one of several officers facing decertification in the aftermath of the incident. He has not been charged in the case.

The MPD had initially rescinded the request for the officer’s decertification, according to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards & Training Commission (POST). That decision prompted city officials to demand answers from the police department.

At the Thursday hearing called by POST officials, MPD officials said Smith has been found to have violated department policies, accusing him of “neglect of duty;” “unauthorized public statement;” and failure of “compliance with regulations” concerning body cameras

According to ABC affiliate WATN in Memphis, which obtained documents concerning Smith’s decertification, Smith allegedly heard Nichols saying “I can’t breathe,” but failed to get him medical care or remove his handcuffs.

Smith also allegedly failed to get use-of-force reports from other officers, and told Nichols’ family that he was driving under the influence even though there is no evidence of that, according to WATN.

Body camera footage from other officers shows Smith telling Nichols “you done took something” when the officer arrived at the scene, according to official documents, which also claimed Smith violated department policy by not wearing his body camera.

Some Memphis City Council members criticized Smith for retiring ahead of his apparent termination hearing.

Nichols, 29, died in early January, three days after a violent traffic stop caught on body camera footage. All five officers who were directly involved in the beating have been charged with second-degree murder. The officers all pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance on Feb. 17.

Seven other police officers were terminated following the incident, according to city of Memphis chief legal officer Jennifer Sink.

“We’re accountable to the people who pay taxes,” Memphis City Council Vice Chairman JB Smiley, Jr. told ABC News. “And if we’re wronging the people who pay taxes, we shouldn’t be allowed to receive dollars that are ultimately theirs.”

When reached by ABC News in a phone call, Smith declined to comment.

ABC News’ Tesfaye Negussie and Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.

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