McCurtain County Courthouse, Idabel, OKInternationalIndiaAfricaBacklash against a group of Oklahoma officials drew condemnation and calls for resignations in the Sooner State after their eyebrow-raising discussion was caught on tape after a local journalist left a recording device in a meeting room holding the individuals. An Oklahoma County Commissioner who was caught on tape complaining about not being able to lynch Black residents and expressing a desire to arrange the killing of two local journalists resigned on Wednesday after calls from both protesters and the state’s governor.McCurtain County Commissioner Mark Jennings resigned with a handwritten note according to a county spokesperson. It said that he would make a formal statement “in the near future regarding the recent events in our county.”McCurtain and the other officials’ comments came to light after being recorded by a reporter of the local paper. The reporter, suspecting the county officials were violating the state’s Open Meeting Act, left the recording device in the room after the press and citizens were ushered out of the room following a county commissioner’s meeting.In the recording, four county officials including Jennings, Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Sheriff’s Captain Alicia Manning and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix can be heard discussing hiring hitmen and complaining about not being able to “beat” and “hang” Black residents.Other officials can be heard on the tape including another county commissioner Robert Beck and Commissioners’ Secretary Heather Carter, though their comments were limited and did not include targeting reporters or lynching Black Americans.The Sheriff’s Office has not addressed the content of the recording, only saying on Facebook* that the recording was obtained illegally.The reporter who recorded the audio says he consulted with his lawyer twice to ensure that his actions were legal. Oklahoma law only bars recording if the people being recorded had a reasonable expectation of privacy.Federal Lawsuit Says Oklahoma Detention Officers Tortured Inmates by Playing ‘Baby Shark’ on Repeat6 November 2021, 09:58 GMTClardy, Jennings and Manning can be heard on the recording speaking about Bruce Willingham, who runs the local paper Gazette-News, and his son Chris who works as a reporter.
“I know where two deep holes are dug if you need them,” Jennings says on the tape, to which Clady replies: “I’ve got an excavator.” The commissioner responds, “Well, these are already pre-dug."
Jennings continued, telling the others he knows “two or three” hitmen from Louisiana that are “very quiet guys” who “would cut no [expletive] mercy.” Jennings seems to imply hiring from out-of-state is preferable because “this is all mafia around here.”Bruce Willingham told media outlets he believes the officials were angry with him over the paper’s reporting of the death of Bobby Barrick, who died in the hospital after being shot with a stun gun by sheriff deputies. The newspaper has sued the sheriff’s office, attempting to obtain body camera footage of the incident.Chris Willingham has a separate lawsuit against the sheriff’s office alleging slander. Manning says the office slandered him after he wrote an eight-part series that exposed alleged misconduct at the police station, including using tainted evidence in a homicide and hiring employees with no law enforcement experience. Willingham alleges Manning told a third party that he exchanged marijuana for child pornography with a man who was arrested on child sex abuse image charges.The lawsuit also alleges the sheriff was investigating employees trying to find out who was leaking information to the outlet.The recording also shows Jennings complaining about not being able to beat or lynch Black people. “I’m gonna tell you something. If it was back in the day, when that when Alan Marston would take a damn Black guy and whoop their a** and throw him in the cell? I’d run for [expletive] sheriff,” Jennings says, seemingly referring to Sheriff Alan Marston who was elected to that position in 1980, according to local newspaper archives. © Oklahoma Historical SocietyFormer Sheriff of McCurtain County, Oklahoma, Alan Marston, who was elected in 1980Former Sheriff of McCurtain County, Oklahoma, Alan Marston, who was elected in 1980After being told by Clardy that “it’s not like that no more,” Jennings replies: “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.”In response, the Oklahoma state chapter of the NAACP has called on the FBI to investigate Mud Creek.Mud Creek is roughly 200 miles from Idabel, Oklahoma, the seat of McCurtain County. It crosses the borders of Tulsa, Creek, Pawnee and Osage counties. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, 38 lynchings have been reported in those counties combined.Also on the tape, the four officials can be heard joking about a woman who burned to death in a house fire.
“They really fall apart when they’re burnt?” Carter is heard asking. “Yeah. You never had barbecue? Same thing.” In response, Beck says: “I’m hungry.”
In response to the tape’s release, the Sheriff’s Department called the recording illegal and claims that it was altered. The Sheriff’s Department has limited who can reply to the post on Facebook*.More than 100 people protested in front of the McCurtain County Courthouse on Monday, which sits in Idabel, a city of about 7,000 people according to latest census data.Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt had called on Tuesday for all four officials to 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.”*Facebook is banned in Russia for extremist activities.