Mississippi police chief fired, bragged about killing 13 people in recordingAugust 9, 2022
A small Mississippi city has a new police chief after its last was secretly recorded bragging about shooting and killing people in the line of duty – including a Black man who he claimed to have shot more than 100 times – in a racist and homophobic rant.
Former Lexington Police Department Chief Sam Dobbins was fired 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, a civil rights and international human rights organization, which released it to the media – riling up the small city of 1,600 about 60 miles north of Jackson. About 80% of the city, nearly 1,300 people, are Black, census data shows.
The newly appointed interim police chief, Charles Henderson, who is Black, told USA TODAY in an interview Friday that the language used by his predecessor in the recording “is something typically that I wouldn’t use and that I wouldn’t want anybody employed with under my administration to use.”
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In the audio, Dobbins can be heard bragging he shot and killed 13 people in the line of duty, including a Black man who 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 smash suspects through a window if they “got out of line.”
Dobbins, who is white, can be heard using multiple racist and homophobic slurs as he claims he would defend Hooker on the job. When contacted by the news outlet, Dobbins denied using slurs and talking about the number of people he’d shot or killed.
“I don’t talk like that,” he told the outlet.
Hooker, who is Black, started with the department this year but resigned days after having a verbal fight with Dobbins, Cardell Wright, a paralegal for JULIAN told USA TODAY. He rejoined the department but was frustrated with its leadership. Before resigning for a second time, Hooker secretly recorded a conversation with the chief, Wright said.
“I just got to the point where you’re not doing the people right, you’re not doing right, so, therefore, let me expose you for what you are, who you are,” Hooker told WLBT.
Jill Collen Jefferson, the 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 attitude that that entire force has.”
Wright said they are calling for the department to be dissolved and said they were investigating any potential constitutional violations 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 complaints of racial discrimination against Dobbins.
Henderson said his new administration will have zero tolerance for racism.
“We’re trying to move forward,” Henderson said. “That’s not going to depict the way the Lexington Police Department is…we’re not a part of any type of racist activity.”