In Oklahoma, a county commissioner resigned after allegedly being recorded discussing killing journalists and Black residents.
The office of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said it had received a letter of resignation from McCurtain County Commissioner Mark Jennings, who was allegedly heard on the recordings. The letter stated that Jennings was resigning immediately and would issue a formal statement “in the near future regarding the recent events in our county,” according to the Associated Press.
According to the McCurtain Gazette-News, officials discussed killing a reporter that works for the paper and made racist remarks toward Black people after a meeting on March 6.
The audio– which the Gazette-News recorded– was made public over the weekend, and a conversation transcript was shared online.
The recorded conversation allegedly included Jennings, Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Capt. Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix. During that conversation, Clardy, Manning, and Jennings discussed reporters Bruce Willingham and his son Chris Willingham, a reporter for the Gazette-News, the latter of whom filed a defamation suit against the parties.
That same day the lawsuit was filed, Jennings tells Clardy and Manning, “I know where two deep holes are dug if you ever need them,” and the sheriff responds, “I’ve got an excavator.” Jennings also says he’s known “two or three hit men” in Louisiana, adding “they’re very quiet guys.”
Jennings allegedly stated that he would run for sheriff if the office allowed him to “take a damn Black guy and whoop their *** and throw him in [a] cell.”
“Well, it’s not like that anymore,” Clardy said.
Jennings replied, “I know. Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. But you can’t do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.”
Gov. Stitt had called for the officials to resign after the Gazette-News published its account. This week, more than 100 protesters demonstrated outside the McCurtain County Courthouse demanding the sheriff and other officials resign.
“I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” Stitt said in a statement. “There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office.”
The Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, a volunteer membership organization rather than a regulating agency, conducted an emergency board meeting on Tuesday. It unanimously decided to suspend Clardy, Manning, and Hendrix from the organization.