Thayer Nichols: Newly obtained documents identify senior officer in arrest, show he retired before he could be fired

(CNN) A lieutenant with the Memphis Police Department has already been identified as being at the scene after Tear Nichols’ arrest and, according to police files obtained by CNN, opted to retire earlier this month ahead of a disciplinary hearing in the case where he should have been fired.

In a Feb. 28 letter notarized by the agency’s human resources division, Lt. Dewayne Smith wrote, “It has been an honor to serve the city I have called home for the past 25 years. Over the years I’ve been blessed with some challenging assignments with some great people.”

Smith had not previously been publicly identified as being at the scene. He allegedly arrived on the scene and did not immediately “take command” in a supervisory role.

Smith has been with the department since 1998 and would be the most senior crime scene officer.

In documents dated Jan. 27, a month before Smith resigned, he was notified of the disciplinary charges against him and a hearing was scheduled for March.

Smith has not been criminally charged in connection with Nichols’ death.

Nichols, 29, was repeatedly punched and kicked by several Memphis police officers during a Jan. 7 traffic stop. He was hospitalized after the traffic stop and died three days later.

Five officers, who were later fired from the department, face criminal charges of second-degree murder, among others. They pleaded not guilty in February and are due back in court in May.

The hearing says Smith failed to fulfill several responsibilities

A disciplinary hearing was held for Smith on March 2 in his absence, and officials determined that Smith should have been fired for his role on the day of Nichols’ beating.

In a police department disciplinary charges document dated March 10, Smith allegedly “failed to obtain appropriate information from officers involved in a critical use-of-force incident.”

“You did not ask important questions such as the amount or type of force used by each of your officers that would have assisted in the prompt and thorough investigation of the scene…” the document said.

The document says that in his statement to investigators, Smith “did not provide or offer immediate medical attention” even though he saw blood coming from Nichols’ face.

“You were told straight away on arrival that the officers had pepper sprayed and groped the subject, but you never asked why there was blood on his face. At approximately 8:44 p.m. and after you arrived, the victim said “I can’t breathe” before he collapsed while still in handcuffs. You failed to direct any officer to remove the handcuffs so that the first emergency medical personnel could administer first aid.

The document alleges that Smith questioned Nichols as his medical condition deteriorated “and only concluded that his behavior was the result of intoxicants, saying ‘You took something, Mane,'” the document said.

According to the documents, Smith was charged with neglect of duty, unauthorized public statements and regulatory compliance. The documents also reveal that Smith spoke with members of Nichols’ family, along with another officer.

“You can be heard on another officer’s body camera telling family members that the subject is under arrest for DUI. You did not obtain sufficient information at the scene to substantiate these criminal charges and there was no arrest documentation to support your assumption,” the document states. “The limited details given to the family member could be perceived as an unsupported accusation or a method of deception and hindered public trust.”

The Daily Memphian was the first to report the story.

In his retirement letter, Smith said it “wasn’t an easy decision. I realized it was time to move on.”

CNN has reached out to the Memphis Police Association for comment.

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