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Sheriff’s office is besieged by public reaction

By April 23, 2023May 12th, 2023No Comments

In the week since this newspaper broke a story that has since gone viral nationwide and even as far as China, many have been shocked Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Captain Alicia Manning and Jail Administer Larry Hendrix have not yet resigned, following the resignation of commissioner Mark Jennings Wednesday.

Following a more than two-year investigation by this reporter, totaling more than 30 articles about alleged sheriff’s office corruption, the paper released explosive audio and a story detailing what was said at the March 6 commissioners meeting.

Since that release on April 15, the question many across the country are asking is “What is happening inside the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office?”

Information obtained this week through sources has shed some light on that.

Sheriff Kevin Clardy called an all-department staff meeting Monday, according to the information. The meeting was held just prior to a press release put out by the Sheriff’s Office on this ordeal, which was not received well by the general public.

At the staff meeting, Clardy and Manning stood up in front of the entire department.

Clardy was quoted as saying, “Anyone who is not fully behind Alicia and I and ready to support us, there’s the door.”

No one left, according to the source.

Only one deputy, Houston Jewel, has quit since the news of broke last week, the paper learned.

Since the story exploded nationwide, beginning April 15, McCurtain County Sheriff’s deputies began riding two officers per unit for safety.

The department was so overwhelmed with angry phone calls from around the country that they had incoming calls limited only to local numbers, the source said.

Law enforcement agencies from here all the way to Durant have been flooded with similar calls, demanding Clardy, Manning and Hendrix resign immediately.

The furious callers did everything from scream at dispatchers to listing off the addresses of Clardy, Manning, Hendrix and their family members, saying, “We’re coming for them.”

Extra security and patrols have been placed on their homes, the paper was told.  

Deputies and staff have not seen Clardy and Manning since the Monday night staff meeting, the paper learned, but were told on Thursday night that Sheriff Clardy would ‘decide what he will be doing by Monday or Tuesday of next week’, according to the source.

On Thursday evening, the sheriff’s department Facebook page posted and said a ‘local organization’ had dropped off gift bags for the department. The post included an image of what appeared to be Thin Blue Line gift bags. “Local people are doing good, despite the negative from people that don’t live here,” the post read. The sheriff’s departments’ social media was quickly met with fury. Though all comments were turned off, Facebook users were still able to post emoticon reactions to the post. The ‘angry’ and ‘haha’ facial reactions numbered in the thousands before the post was deleted.

On Tuesday night, Chinese state-affiliated media picked up the April 15 Gazette story and began circulating it on TikTok, Twitter and other social media with a 13-second propaganda video.

This screenshot is from China Global Television Network’s reporting agency Frontline in Beijing. It was posted on Twitter Tuesday night and detailed the recent events here, playing audio from the commissioners meeting, which was translated to Mandarin while showing pictures of Clardy, Jennings, Manning and Hendrix, along with what appeared to be lynching of Black men in the Jim Crow-era South in America.

The video showed pictures of Jennings, Clardy, Manning and Hendrix, followed by pictures of what appeared to be the lynching of Black people from Jim Crow-era American history with audio of the March 6 commissioners meeting playing.

Using Google Translate, the headers on the video say:

“U.S. local officials complained that the recording was exposed. The content is shocking.”

The video then translates the racist audio clips of the meeting into Mandarin.

Could they be fired?

Clardy appears to be the only person with authority to fire Manning; however, the McCurtain County Jail Trust, of which Clardy is chairman, could vote to terminate Hendrix.

For Clardy to be removed, a grand jury could file an accusation of removal on a number of grounds, many of which DA Mark Matloff has previously requested of the state Attorney General’s office (see related story).

Also, the state Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) could suspend Clardy’s, Manning’s and Hendrix’s commission certification on ethical violations, which would strip them of law enforcement powers. Hendrix is not required to have CLEET certification to be jail administrator, but he is currently CLEET certified. Clardy could not be acting sheriff if he does not have a current CLEET certification, nor could Manning be an investigator or deputy.