A small Mississippi town has a new police chief after his latest was secretly recorded bragging about shooting and killing people in the line of duty – including a black man he claimed shot dead over 100 times – in a racist and homophobic rant.
Former Lexington Police Department Chief Sam Dobbins was fired on Wednesday after the city’s board of aldermen voted to oust him in a session that lasted more than an hour, WLBT reported. .
The vote came after a former officer leaked a recording of a conversation he had with the chief in April. The officer, Robert Lee Hooker, gave the secretly recorded audio to JULIAN, an international civil rights and human rights organization, which released it to the media – agitating the small town of 1,600 about 60 miles north of Jackson. About 80% of the city, nearly 1,300 people, are black, according to census data.
Newly appointed acting police chief Charles Henderson, who is black, told USA TODAY in an interview on Friday that the language used by his predecessor in the recording “is something that I wouldn’t typically use and that I wouldn’t want anyone employed with under my administration to use.”
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In the audio, Dobbins can be heard bragging about shooting and killing 13 people in the line of duty, including a black man he says he shot 119 times, according to a copy of the 16-minute recording obtained by USA TODAY.
During the conversation, which was first reported by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, Dobbins can be heard saying he would run suspects through a window if they “stepped out of line.”
Dobbins, who is white, can be heard using several racist and homophobic slurs as he claims he would stand up for Hooker at work. When contacted by the media, Dobbins denied using slurs and talking about the number of people he shot or killed.
“I don’t talk like that,” he told the outlet.
Hooker, who is black, started with the department this year but quit days after getting into a verbal fight with Dobbins, Cardell Wright, a JULIAN legal assistant told USA TODAY. He joined the department but was frustrated with its leadership. Before stepping down a second time, Hooker secretly taped a conversation with the chief, Wright said.
“I just got to the point where you don’t do people well, you don’t do well, so let me expose you for what you are, who you are,” Hooker told WLBT.
Jill Collen Jefferson, Founder and President of JULIAN, said the recording is “a really significant and serious breach of trust with the community” and likely “indicative of a culture and an attitude that all of this force has.”
Wright said they are asking for the department to be disbanded and are investigating any potential violations of the Constitution by the department.
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Mayor Robin McCrory did not respond to a request for comment. Henderson said he was not aware of any racial discrimination complaints against Dobbins.
Henderson said his new administration will have zero tolerance for racism.
“We’re trying to move forward,” Henderson said. “It’s not going to portray the way the Lexington Police Department is…we are not part of any type of racist activity.”