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The McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) is facing damning allegations of systemic racism, corruption, and a toxic “good ole boy” system that has resulted in an environment where bigotry and abuse of power are not only tolerated but encouraged.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with a former MCSO official who painted a disturbing picture of the inner workings of the department.
On April 15, 2023, a small newspaper, McCurtain Gazette News, released a stunning voice recording of McCurtain County officials discussing murdering journalists, lynching Black Oklahomans, and joking about the recent murder of a McCurtain County woman.
The conversation allegedly includes MCSO Sheriff Kevin Clardy, McCurtain County Commissioners Mark Jennings and Robert Beck, McCurtain County Investigator Alicia Manning, and jail administrator Larry Hendrix.
As the national attention turned to the rural southeastern Oklahoma county, the MCSO released a late-night statement condemning Gazette publisher Bruce Willingham who exposed the officials. On Facebook, MCSO also threatened Willingham, though not by name, with felony charges.
The statement said in part, “Many of these recordings, like the one published by media outlets on Friday, have yet to be duly authenticated or validated. Our preliminary information indicates that the media released audio recording has, in fact, been altered. The motivation for doing so remains unclear at this point. That matter is actively being investigated.”
While the MCSO has yet to clarify how the recordings have allegedly been altered, one must question if the department is attempting to mislead the public.
McCurtain County has more questions to answer
Clipping audio files into shorter, more digestible pieces is a standard method of producing easily consumable news media. Have the recordings been altered or simply edited?
The Black Wall Street Times spoke to a former MCSO official on the condition of anonymity to ensure the safety of our source and their family.
The following information contains graphic language and descriptions of threatened lethal police violence.
BLACK LIVES MATTER RALLY
During a scheduled Black Lives Matter rally and peaceful protest in Idabel following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the MCSO’s true colors were revealed.
As a former MCSO official recalled, the deputies gathered ahead of the protest. At this time, multiple deputies made derogatory comments and fantasized about inflicting harm on protestors with their service weapons.
The official stated, “The whole time they were talking, they were glorifying, daydreaming, if they (the protestors) do this, I’m gonna hurt them like this.” When asked to explain how it was the deputies wished to hurt protestors, the official clarified – “with their guns. Shooting them.”
During the peaceful protest, the MCSO Special Response Team was positioned on the roof of the McCurtain County Jail. The former official recalled hearing members of the SRT boasting about pointing their loaded rifles at Black protestors, calling them n—–rs.
According to the source, one SRT officer stated something to the effect of, “this one (Black) guy had a crazy look on his face, and I could tell he was gonna do something stupid. I was squeezing the trigger just waiting.”
The former MCSO official spoke about the toxic culture of the department, stating that an average day included hearing multiple racial slurs or prejudiced comments from deputies.
Additionally, the official said “(They) will bully you if you don’t believe the things they do. If you’re not a part of it, they’re gonna do something to try and ruin your reputation.”