(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — A high-ranking Memphis, Tennessee police officer on duty at the scene of the beating that would end Tyre Nichols life, retired one day before he was expected to be fired, according to Memphis City Council Vice Chairman JB Smiley, Jr.
“We’re accountable to the people who pay taxes,” Smiley 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.”
“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,” the Nichols family’s attorneys said in a statement. “His cowardice in resigning and not facing his own disciplinary board to defend himself is not an end-around on accountability or reckoning.”
The mother and stepfather of Nichols, RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, spoke alongside Ben Crump, who leads their legal team, and Al Sharpton at the National Action Network (NAN) House of Justice in Harlem Saturday.
“In my heart, I just feel like, my son, he had to be sacrificed for the greater good,” RowVaughn Wells said through tears. “That’s the only explanation that I have as the reason why all this is happening. Because he was such a good person. He was a free-spirited person.”
Crump supported RowVaughn Wells’ belief that her son was sent to this world on an “assignment.”
“She’s got to believe some greater good is going to come from this,” Crump said. “All these families joining Tyre Nichols’ family, we’re finally going to get the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act passed. So, we can try to prevent some of these unnecessary, these unjustifiable, and unconstitutional killings of our people.”
According to a statement from Wells’ attorneys, Lt. Smith observed Nichols as he lay battered on the ground, neither rendering aid nor asking for immediate medical attention for Nichols. The Memphis Police Department declined to comment and did not respond to requests to obtain the police reports related to Lt. Smith’s retirement.
After Nichols died, seven other police officers were terminated following the beating on Jan. 7, according to city of Memphis chief legal officer Jennifer Sink. All five officers who were directly involved in the beating have been charged with second-degree murder.
Nichols, 29, died three days after a violent traffic stop caught on body camera footage. He cried out for his mother as he was beaten with fists, boots and batons by the five officers after fleeing the scene of his alleged traffic violation. The officers all pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance on Feb. 17.
“Tyre’s parents believe Smith was one of the first officers who came to their house and told them about Tyre’s beating,” Wells’ attorneys said in a statement. “[Lt. Smith] said Tyre was involved in a DUI or on drugs, and did not tell them about the severity of the situation.”
The statement also said Smith told Wells she would not be permitted to see her son in the hospital.
When reached by ABC News in a phone call, Lt. Smith declined to comment.
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