A Memphis police supervisor who retired with benefits just before he was to be fired for his role in the beating death of Tyre Nichols should be held accountable, Nichols’ stepfather said Saturday.
“For that lieutenant to be able to retire thinking he will be able to escape the consequences of his actions, we aren’t going to let that happen. The community isn’t going to let that happen,” Rodney Wells said during a rally at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters.
The retiring lieutenant was identified Friday in records obtained by media outlets as DeWayne Smith.
“That shield don’t empower you to go out and commit murder. Hopefully, through all of this, we will get justice for Tyre and justice for all the other families that are going through this hardship,” Well said during his appearance in Harlem.
Documents revealed that Smith, who was on the scene when Nichols, 29, was beaten, heard him say “I can’t breathe” but failed to get him medical attention or remove his handcuffs.
Smith also told Nichols’ family he was driving under the influence — even though there was no information to support a charge, the documents said. Investigators said Smith decided without evidence that Nichols was on drugs or drunk, and video captured him when he arrived at the scene telling Nichols, “you done took something.”
Smith’s retirement came just before his termination hearing.
Seven other Memphis officers were fired after Nichols died following the Jan. 7 traffic stop and five of them were charged with second-degree murder.
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, recounted how officers banged on her door on Jan. 7 to tell her Nichols had been arrested for driving under the influence.
“I was kind of confused because my son doesn’t drink like that. He has an occasional beer every blue moon, but not the way the were describing,” she said.
She said they also asked if he was on any medication or took drugs because he had “superhuman strength.”
“I am standing there and I’m going this doesn’t sound like my son. What are you talking about?” she said.
Wells said Nichols “was just a good boy.”
“He was just going to live his life and he got his life together because he had a 5-year-old son,” she said. “He was less than 800 feet from where they caught him and they murdered and beat him to death.”
Wells said she didn’t watch the videos that showed the brutal beating of Nichols, who cried out for his mother during the assault. He died three days later.
“I didn’t watch the video because I didn’t need to see the video. I already saw what they did to my son. I didn’t need to see how they did it,” said through tears.