I am the editor of the McCurtain Gazette and wife of Chris Willingham, an investigative reporter for the Gazette. Since November of 2021, Chris has been investigating corruption at the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office. He has written a number of articles in the series, and we are currently involved in litigation regarding open records over the death of Bobby Barrick, a Choctaw man who was Tased by a sheriff’s deputy while he was hogtied and died as a result. We are partnering with the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press to obtain those records. The deputy in question is still at work and on patrol. If you would like to speak to the victim’s family we would be happy to pass along their contact information.
It is widely believed that our Sheriff Kevin Clardy is on methamphetamine. During Monday’s McCurtain County Commissioner’s meeting, the sheriff was asked to take a hair follicle drug test. The sheriff’s office is required to take random drug tests, though this requirement was lifted within the organization, I imagine around the time the sheriff began to allegedly do meth. There has been a number of instances when the Sheriff has been required to take a drug test and has not, such as when he has fired his gun in an altercation, and when he rammed a suspect in a police chase.
The County Commissioners, along with Sheriff Kevin Clardy, said the Sheriff would only take a hair follicle drug test if my husband, reporter Chris Willingham, also agreed to a test, despite drug tests being a requirement of the Sheriff’s job. Chris has committed no crime, and refused to participate in their circus. A sheriff attempting to force a reporter to take a drug test is a violation of his fourth amendment rights. The sheriff stood on a chair (!) and shouted that he would not take a hair follicle test because Chris wouldn’t take one, but he would take a urine test, which he passed. A urine test would only show that he had not used meth within the three days’ prior. The point of the test was to see if he has been on meth over the last few months when there has been a shocking number of crimes, such as four inmates escaping the county jail and a young woman disappearing and being discovered dead in her car in Broken Bow Lake.
The sheriff went on to post about this on the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. This statement is posted below and can also be found on their public Facebook page, though comments have been disabled. I am attaching a photo from the commissioners meeting, as well as photos of Bobby Barrick before the sheriff deputy Tased him. I would be happy to share any of my husband’s articles if you are interested.
It is clear to me that our county commissioners and our McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office have no idea of what the rule of law is, or any intention of following any of the laws. Our DA has refused to involve himself in the matter. My heart breaks for the number of victims and their families who are suffering at the hands of our corrupt county government.
Editor, McCurtain Gazette