[Editor’s note, from Ken Silverstein: A version of this story was originally published in the June 2021 issue of Prison Legal News. I’m proud to say I edited the story, which marks the Washington Babylon and PLN debut of the great writer Nicole Spector.]
Sure, the president of the United States wields immense power, as does the average member of the Senate and House of Representative, but when it comes to unchecked lawlessness, abuse of authority and corruption, they’ve got nothing over the county sheriff. The sheriff theoretically works for the people of the state—not the state’s commissioners. He or she (the role is heavily male-dominated, so going forward we’ll just say “he”) doesn’t answer to the county government, but rather, works in concert with it. Just as the people of the country elect its president, the people of the county elect its sheriff. The only exceptions to this rule are Hawaii and Rhode Island, which have statewide law enforcement agencies appoint their sheriffs instead of voting them in. Even more untraditional are Alaska and Connecticut: the only U.S. states where there is no office of the sheriff.
A sheriff has vast power—more so than anyone else in his jurisdiction. It is his duty to “preserve the peace,” enforce the law, arrest and commit those who allegedly break the law, carry out court orders, execute any and all processes directed to him, and defend his land against enemies. He’s also the guy who determines what public safety looks like in his county—and how to tighten it up.
But wait, there’s more: The county sheriff has the authority to run jails, serve as coroner, detain and assist in deporting people, and choose to enforce and not enforce law for whatever reason (including no reason). Most impressively, the sheriff is immune to legislation without a state constitutional amendment to essentially disempower or transfer him. This supreme power is partly why it’s so difficult to take on the sheriffs and his underlings in court. He’s shielded by invisible but bulletproof doctrine.
If this sounds to you like the description of a ruler in medieval times, you’re right on the money. The role of the sheriff dates back to ninth century England, appointed by none other than the Crown. Back then, the sheriff held the same control and influence he holds in the U.S. today, though he also presided over tax collection and orchestrated “the posse comitatus,” his own militia of shire residents who would moonlight as local law enforcement. These unofficial troops were sort of like narcs but without any formal police background or title. The sheriff was also charged with protecting the land of the wealthy—which isn’t a far cry from what he does today; the role is just less blatantly described.
The role of the sheriff has hardly budged since it was established centuries ago and these antiquarian values—so macho, so narrow-minded and so blindingly white—are largely what make it so problematic. The capacity for abuse of power is as easy today as it was in the 1700s. A sheriff can still directly profit from incarcerating and detaining people. In some counties, he can still use volunteers as extra albeit unofficial law enforcement troops. And thanks to the 2017 ruling of Donald Trump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he can still seize assets from citizens who haven’t been charged with crimes.
With so much power and no supervision, being sheriff is a dream job for those who relish in setting the rules that can be broken whenever convenient or desirable for them. Undoubtedly there are “good” sheriffs out there—those who genuinely care about the integrity of their county and are passionate about not only protecting their area of jurisdiction, but the lives and rights of all the people within it. Unfortunately, these good apples, if you will, aren’t nearly as conspicuous as the rotten ones.
And so, here’s a look at ten of the worst sheriffs (in no particular order) on the job in the U.S. today — and the festering atrocities they’ve committed. Please note that while I’ve tried to gather as much damning evidence as possible, I surely didn’t capture it all, and many men that deserve to make this list didn’t, as there’s only so much a journalist can write before she exceeds her word count. Okay then, get ready for a lot of cowboy hats and mustaches!
Sheriff #1. Bill Waybourn
Tarrant County, Texas
On January 1, 2017, Republican Bill Waybourn was reelected and sworn in as the 39th Sheriff of Tarrant County, Texas, with a “vision to create change at the Sheriff’s Office while carrying out the mission of being that line between evil and good.” Much like his proud ally, former President Trump, Waybourn is a modern, Tea Party-esque Republican who leans libertarian, criticizing “government bureaucracy” for slowing down his plans for the county and the people he wishes to empower.
Waybourn is a steadfast promoter of Trump’s tough as nails and sharp as shards of glass immigration politics. He signed off on a 287(g) agreement under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that appoints jail officers as enforcers of immigration laws, and enables them to hold undocumented prisoners past their sentence or when a bond has been posted. The agreement also empowers jailors to transfer detainees to ICE to be deported. The agreement riled up immigration activists who campaigned to remove Waybourn from office, favoring his challenger Vance Keyes, a Black Democrat with 20 years of policing under his belt, who rallied against the 287(g) agreement that Waybourn sanctified.
But the activists did not get their wish to see Sheriff Waybourn tossed off his throne (because really, when do they?), and the sheriff’s unabashedly xenophobic views have flourished. Speaking at the Trumped-out White House in 2019, Waybourn called unauthorized immigrants “drunks [who] will run over your children, and run over my children.” Waybourn’s bluntly racist remarks echo the emboldened and baseless claims of Trump, who has decried “shithole countries” and described Mexican immigrants as druggies, rapists, and flat out criminals.
Under Waybourn’s reign, there have been more than a few tragic and disturbing incidents at Tarrant County Jail, which he oversees. In May 2020, an woman gave birth to a baby without anyone taking notice. To be crystal clear here: a woman went through the arduous (and usually loud) process of labor—in a cell without any help or even validation that it was happening. It wasn’t until a guard discovered the newborn that the baby was taken to a local hospital. Whether the mother was also taken into the hospital is unclear,.
Also in May 2020, following the alleged suicide of a prisoner, the Tarrant County Jail’s state certification was revoked—but only for a mere six days. In July, three of Waybourn’s detention officers were criminally charged after a jail inmate was beaten to such an extent that he ended up with rib fractures, a broken cheek, and a collapsed lung. The beatings were dismissed by a fellow officer to authorities as “normal.” As of October 2020, 10 people had died in Tarrant County Jail—more deaths than in 2017, 2018, and 2019 combined—under Waybourn’s watch.
Sheriff #2. Scott Jones
Sacramento County, California
Dubbed California’s “mini-Trump” by The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones has a paper trail of lawsuits and condemning evidence almost as long as Trump himself. His history within the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department dates back to 1989, when he started as a security officer. Marching up the ranks through various roles, including assistant to Chief of Corrections and then-sheriff John McGinness, Jones was elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014 and in 2018. Things have been pretty much a nightmare since then, and if the role of sheriff weren’t so invulnerable, he’d likely have been booted from his station years ago.
Along the years, Jones has exploited his powers as sheriff in just about every way possible. In 2019, he was sued by The Sacramento Bee and The Los Angeles Times for redacting information related to the past conduct of his officers. Cornered by Senate Bill 1421, which mandates the release of law enforcement records regarding officer shootings, and other offenses and injuries committed by his underlings, Jones was forced to release records from the prior five years. This came as a major blow to Jones, who doesn’t believe in his deputies wearing body cams, let alone in full disclosure.
Jones’s treatment of incarcerated people in his jurisdiction has been about as gruesome as you might expect. He’s the guy who signed off on making the main jail in downtown Sacramento the setting for the exploitative Netflix series “Jailbirds.” His leadership during the COVID-19 crisis has been abominable, with the main jail becoming a COVID ground zero in Northern California. Additionally, in 2020, Jones’s office was hit with two federal lawsuits after the murder of two mentally ill prisoners by fellow prisoners. The deaths could have been prevented had the victims been protected as they were supposed to be. HRDC, the publisher of Prison Legal News, also successfully sued Jones for banning PLN claiming the staples were somehow a threat to jail security.
In February, Jones announced that he would not seek a fourth term as sheriff in 2022, supporting Sacramento County Sheriff Captain Jim Barnes in his campaign to replace him. Barnes, who’s been with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years, seems humbled by the endorsement and eager to carry on Jones’s legacy. “For my entire adult life, I have been committed to keeping this community safe and protecting victims of crime,” Barnes said in his campaign announcement. “I’m proud of what we have done. At the same time, I know law enforcement is constantly looking for ways to provide better service to our communities. I am excited to lead the Sheriff’s Office and put my own stamp on the future of law enforcement while continuing to improve public safety for everyone.” Sounds promising!
Sheriff #3. Steve Whidden
Hendry County, Florida
Hendry County, Florida Sheriff Steve Whidden shows just how brazenly a bad sheriff can spread his toxicity by hiring bad personnel. In May 2020, two deputies hired by Whidden burst onto the scene of a block party in the city of LaBelle and shot two Black men: LaTravis Williams, who was shot once in the leg and grazed by a bullet on his torso; and Tyrone Reed, Jr., who was shot four times (at least once in the stomach)—in his own front yard. During the police raid, allegedly spurred by reports of gunfire at the party, the Hendry County deputies discharged roughly 30 bullets onto the property. Nobody was charged with a crime, nor were any arrests made.
Whidden was quick to defend his deputies in the wake of the shootings, asking that people “not believe everything you see and hear on Facebook or on the news. People will lie, body cameras do not. The people who attend these parties have no respect for the law-abiding citizens who live in this community or law enforcement.” In a painfully ironic twist, Whidden posted this admonishment on his own Facebook account. As of the end of October 2020, body camera footage had not been released to the public and the case was still under review by the state attorney’s office. Both Reed and Williams intend to file lawsuits against Whidden’s office, insisting that they were innocent bystanders (assertions backed by witnesses at the party).
Sargeant Nestor Echevarria, the deputy who shot Williams and Reed, came to work for Whidden after being fired from the Department of Corrections in 2007 for using excessive force. For Whidden, this dubious hire was no surprise. He has a history of onboarding deputies with a criminal past. Over the past 12 years, Whidden hired at least 51 deputies with known histories of various offenses including fraud, lying, personal and professional misconduct, racism, abuse of power, and paying for sex. These deputies make up nearly half of Hendry County’s entire force, which stood at 112 full-timers as of June 2020.
Despite impending lawsuits from victims Reed and Williams, Whidden cruised to victory last November, when he was reelected for a fourth term.
Sheriff #4. Gregory J. Ahern. Alameda County, California
In the Bay area, Alameda County is something of an outlier in a predominantly blue state. In the 2020 presidential election, it leaned in favor of Trump—even more so than in 2020. Given the county’s political red streak, it’s no surprise that its sheriff, Greg Ahern (active since 2007) has values snuggly align with the former president. His record is marred with instances of right-wing violence, including impassioned backing of ICE, increased and intensified militarization, and striking ties to white supremacy.
Among Ahern’s most recent acts of cruelty was mandating the eviction of a Moms 4 Housing group who had taken residence with their children in an abandoned Oakland building in January 2020. Rather than peacefully clearing out the homeless and unarmed families (if there is such a way as “peaceful”), Ahern sent a fleet of deputies in an armored tank to terrorize them. Clad in riot gear and automatic rifles, the officers raided the building in the early hours of the morning with a helicopter circling overhead to kick the women out. One of the mothers who had taken shelter in the vacated building had recently escaped domestic violence. Oakland, like much of California, has a grave homelessness crisis; it makes little sense when considering that for every unhoused American forced to survive on the streets, there are 13 vacant and off-market housing spaces in the area as of January 2020.
Ahern runs both of Alameda’s county jails, where there has been a string of inexplicable inmate deaths. In June 2018, 23-year-old Dujuan Armstrong was found dead while serving a weekend sentence at Santa Rita Jail, one of Ahern’s posts. His body was bruised and his skull was badly fractured, indicating he’d died in an act of extreme violence. But no one took accountability for or explained Armstrong’s death to his mother, Barbara Doss, who was desperate for answers. The deputies informed her that he was under the influence of a cocktail of drugs that led to his demise—but then why was he so badly beaten? Doss may never know.
Armstrong isn’t the only jailed person to mysteriously die under Ahern’s watch. Just three days later, another man died in a maximum security solitary cell. In Ahern’s time as sheriff, at least 80 men have died in the jails he presides over. Many of these deaths have been listed as suicides or accidental, and five of them landed in Alameda County court, which coughed up $4.6 million to settle.
Reverend Michael McBride, a criminal justice reform advocate in Alameda County, has called Ahern a “respectable version of Joe Arpaio from Arizona” given his history of prisoner abuse and racial profiling. Other Alameda County activists have cried out against the reign of Ahern, organizing town halls, campaigns, and protests—but none of their efforts managed to make a dent in Ahern’s run for sheriff in 2018, where he scooped up another four-year term and 95.8 percent of the county’s vote.
Sheriff #5. Alex Villanueva
Los Angeles County, California
While most sheriffs can commit abhorrent acts with their reputations unsullied and their conduct uninvestigated, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva hasn’t been so lucky. In December 2020, the Office of the Inspector General issued a 17-page report outlining the unlawful conduct of the Villanueva’s department. Inspector General Max Huntsman, who authored the report, honed in on Villanueva’s wrongdoings including allegations that he threatened county officials should they reveal the names of deputies involved in shootings, assembled gangs within his force, and refused to disclose any information after claiming to know of several county officials who had committed acts of felony.
The Inspector General’s list goes on and on, and even underscores Villanueva’s orders to deputies to delete photos taken at the scene of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and several others—which amounts to destruction of evidence. The report also called out Villanueva’s failure to comply with a subpoena mandating his presence before the Oversight Commission.
A month prior to publication of the report, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors broke tradition and voted on whether Sheriff Villanueva should remain in power. Typically, Los Angeles voters would decide for themselves, and would next have the opportunity to do so in 2022. The board voted 3-2 to explore options on ousting Villanueva, leaving his future as the L.A.’s top dog hanging precariously in the city’s smoggy air.
Clinging to his seat, his ego, and his cracked self-perception of invincibility, Villanueva continues to dodge a subpoena issued by the county Inspector General. As of late March 2021, Villanueva is suing to fend off the county from forcing him to disclose what he knows about the deputy gangs within his ranks. To be clear, these deputy gangs aren’t just cliques of bullies, but swarms of murderous tyrants. In summer 2020, an autopsy report found that 18-year-old Andres Guardado was shot in the back five times by two deputies who are believed to be members of a clandestine unit called the Executioners. The battle goes on as Inspector General Huntsman sticks to his guns regarding the condemning evidence against Villanueva.
Sheriff #6. Bob Gualtieri
Pinellas County, Florida
During the contentious 2020 presidential election, pollsters zeroed in on Pinellas County, the second smallest county in Florida. Historically Pinellas pendulums between conservative and liberal, and in 2020, tilted slightly in Biden’s favor, with 49.44 percent of the population voting blue, and 49.2 percent voting for Trump. You needn’t be much of a political analyst to know that the county’s sheriff Bob Gualtieri voted bright red.
A staunch Republican, Gualtieri gained notoriety in July of 2018 when he refused to hold Michael Drejka, a white man who fatally shot Markeis McGlockton, a 28-year-old Black father and husband, accountable for the homicide. The reason Drejka gunned McGlockton to the ground? A spat over a parking space. In short, Drejka was snooping around McGlockton’s car, where his girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, was waiting. She was stationed in a handicapped spot by a store where McGlockton and his five-year-old son were, and Drejka wanted to know whether she had a permit to legally park there. The two allegedly quarreled. At some point McGlockton came out of the store and shoved Drejka to the ground. Drejka then shot him in the chest. McGlockton limped back into the store and was then transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
There’s absolutely nothing mysterious or up for debate here: The murder of McGlockton was cleanly captured by surveillance camera; yet Gualtieri swiftly dismissed the crime by pointing to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. Enacted in 2005, the law establishes that a person can legally use deadly force and has no duty to retreat for a number of reasons, including if that person believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent his own death or great bodily harm. Essentially, the Stand Your Ground Law is like a portable version of the general self-defense law. It doesn’t matter where you are or what evidence you have against you: if you have any remotely—and I mean even vaguely remotely—“justifiable” reason to feel endangered (in this case, being knocked down by somebody else), you can shoot them regardless of whether they’re armed, even if they’re 10 feet away, as McGlockton was from Drejka.
“Markeis wouldn’t be dead if Markeis didn’t slam this guy to the ground,” Gualtieri said of the homicide. “So Markeis has got skin in this game, too.”
But something highly unusual that Gualtieri wasn’t expecting happened: The Pinellas and Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabetion overruled Gualtieri and charged Drejka with manslaughter. The offender was convicted to 20 years in prison because the state attorney overruled Gualtieri’s victim-blaming decision.
This insidious go-to of victim-blaming is central to Gualtieri’s general philosophy. In 2018, three teenage girls drowned in a stolen car after crashing into a pond in St. Petersburg, Florida. Gualtieri suggested that their deaths were a result of their own bad decisions.
“Solutions need to come deep from within the community. Kids need to know there are consequences. This is a systematic and complex problem,” Gualtieri said. “Three dead teenagers is not acceptable.”
Rather than taking steps toward gun control, Gualtieri insists that teachers should arm themselves and go through intensive training to take down a school shooter. And he expects them to volunteer for this training, rather than to receive any extra compensation or insurance, or you know, just do their jobs as teachers without worrying about a guy toting a freshly purchased AR-15 and storming the school gates.
Sheriff #7. Richard Jones
Butler County, Ohio
Years before Donald Trump was slithering his way to political gain by slamming immigrants and promising to build a “great, great wall” along the nation’s southern border, animosity toward Mexicans was fired up in a little place called Butler County, Ohio, which is curious because the state is a lot closer to Canada than to Mexico. Just a guess, but maybe some people are more afraid of Mexicans than Canadians, for some mysterious, unknown reason? Stoking the flames was Richard Jones, the county’s sheriff who was first elected to office in 2005. Now in his fifth term, Jones has built a prized reputation as a bully to Butler’s Hispanic community. Idolizing John Wayne (who was, unsurprisingly, an outspoken white supremacist), Jones is dedicated to villainizing and humiliating immigrants, at the expense of his county’s population, which is five percent Hispanic and nine percent Black.
In 2006, Jones, a former corrections officer, planted signs in the county jail’s parking lot that read “Illegal Aliens Here,” with an arrow pointing inside the facility in an effort to shame deputies into aligning with his anti-immigration views. “It’s a big, bright yellow sign, and it’s to let people know in our community that there are illegals here, and it is a problem, and we want some help,” he said.
What exactly is the problem that “illegals” are creating, according to Jones? Costing the county money, in Jones’s warped interpretation. Much like Trump (are you seeing a pattern here among these sheriffs?) Jones equates illegal immigrants with offenders, claiming that they break the law, thereby costing Butler County thousands of dollars a month to be jailed. Back in 2006, when NPR did a story on him, Jones had recently sent a $150,000 bill to the federal government asking for reimbursement for incarceration costs. At the same time, Jones erected billboards around the county targeting businesses by reminding them that hiring undocumented workers was against the law.
When the Fed didn’t refund Jones, he went straight to the source, as he perceived it: Mexico.
“I am the duly-elected Sheriff of Butler County, Ohio, in the United States of America, located approximately 1,500 miles northeast of the US-Mexican border,” Jones wrote in an “Open Letter” in 2014 to Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, and José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs. “I have personally observed large numbers of Mexican aliens settling in my community after illegally crossing the border into the United States,” Jones continued. “Although the United States government has apparently been willing to allow most of the criminal activity of illegally entering this country go pretty much unpunished, many of your former residents are additionally committing local crimes here. Assaults, Acts of Domestic Violence, Rapes (of elderly as well as child victims), Illegal Drug Trafficking, Driving Under the Influence, and other crimes seem to happen frequently. This puts a huge financial burden on the US-born residents of my community.”
Jones asked Mexico to pay him $900,000 for “dealing with [Mexico’s] criminals.” This all happened under the leadership of President Obama. Surely life got much easier for Jones under the Trump administration. In 2020, he offered $10 to celebrities to help pay for their one-way ticket out of the country if Trump was re-elected. Interesting math with this guy.
Sheriff #8. Donny Youngblood. Kern County, California
Ever wonder why so many people end up mysteriously dead in jails and prisons? Or why cops so often kill rather than injure when they shoot somebody? Donny Youngblood, the sheriff of Kern County in California has an answer: saving money. In 2018, 12 years into his stint as sheriff, a state jail guard union released a video from the first year of his reign that showed Youngblood speaking before the county Detention Officers Association. In the video, he says that it is more cost-effective to kill a prisoner than to cripple him.
“When a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody and kills them?” Youngblood said in the video. “Three million bucks and the family goes away after a long back and forth. When it happens in corrections, it’s a totally different ballgame.” Youngblood was even more direct when he quizzed the crowd, asking which would be better financially for the county, “to cripple or kill an inmate?”
In response, someone in the crowd cried out, “Kill them.” He guessed right. “Absolutely,” replied Youngblood. “Because if we cripple them we get to take care of them for life.”
After the footage was leaked, Youngblood argued that his words were taken out of context, which even if true is meaningless because there’s no context in which these words don’t reflect homicidal intent in the name of money. Least surprised by Youngblood’s remarks was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which issued a report criticizing the use of force among deputies in the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and Bakersfield Police Department. The report found that between 2009 and 2017, more than 25 percent of the Bakersfield Police officers’ deadly shootings killed someone unarmed. The majority of deadly shootings under the Kern County Sheriff’s watch involved someone unarmed, or armed with just a knife. In 2015, The Guardian reported that police in Kern County had killed more people per capita than cops in any other American county that year.
Youngblood and his deputies have come under scrutiny over other indefensible matters. In 2019, Kern County deputy Michael Everett Clark was arrested after detectives learned that he sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman. The victim reported the assault took place while Clark was on duty, in his patrol car. In 2020, four women alleged that Clark acted “inappropriately” to them while on the job.
In 2018, a deaf woman in Kern sued the county after being arrested without having her rights read to her. Upon her arrest, the plaintiff was locked up in jail for nearly a week, with no interpreter or person who could communicate with her in her language, American Sign.
Sheriff #9. Tim Howard
Erie County, New York
One can easily imagine that when Tim Howard, the sheriff of Erie County in New York, gets together with his family, there’s a lot of talk about locking up the bad guys. Why? Because so many of the Howard kin are in law enforcement. The 40-plus year law enforcement veteran’s brother is the chief of police in Eden, New York, another is a retired lieutenant, and yet another is a retired New York State Police senior investigator turned Town Justice. Howard’s sons are state troopers, as are two of his nephews, and his daughter is married to a New York State prison guard.
More difficult and horrifying to imagine is Howard’s approach to the alleged “bad guys.” Even county lawmakers seem to be trying to wrap their heads around the offenses Howard has committed during his 16 years as sheriff. Last March, Democratic legislators formally questioned the stalwart Republican’s suspect handling of a number of misconduct cases involving the sheriff’s deputies. Howard was standoffish and defensive during questioning and stood fiercely by his deputies, including a guy who assaulted a Buffalo Bills fan at a tailgate party. That guy, by the way, is Kenneth Achtyl and he served no jail time despite being convicted by a jury of official misconduct, reckless assault, and falsifying business records.
Achtyl’s crimes are small potatoes compared to the atrocities committed under Sheriff Howard, particularly in regards to incarcerated people. In 2016, 27-year-old India Cummings of Lackawanna, New York called 911 for help due to unknown reasons. Then, in a strange turn of events, Cummings darted out of her home, hijacked a car, and spurred a police chase. Why would you call the police for help and then steal a car while yours is close by? It was exceptionally strange behavior for Cummings, who had no criminal record and was known as kind and easygoing. Surely this called for psychiatric assessment. But instead of being treated like a person having a mental health incident, Cummings was tossed into the County Holding Center in Buffalo. Her physical and mental health rapidly deteriorated and on February 21, after weeks of neglect, she died. Her death was ruled homicide by medical neglect.
Cummings isn’t the only person to have been brutally abused in Howard’s custody. A February 2018 commission report found Erie County jails to be among the worst in New York State. These jails “pose an ongoing risk to the health and safety of staff and inmates and, in instances, impose cruel and inhumane treatment of inmates in violation of their Constitutional rights,” the report said.
As of last December, 27 people, including Cummings, had died at the Erie County Holding center on Howard’s watch.
Sheriff #10. Frank Reynolds, Cherokee County, Georgia
When a white guy walks into an establishment and shoots several Asian-Americans, is it a hate crime or just a case of the Mondays? If you’re Frank Reynolds, the sheriff of Cherokee County, Georgia, it’s the latter. Last March this exact scenario happened: A 21-year-old Caucasian man marched into three different spas in Atlanta with a freshly purchased 9mm semi-automatic pistol and killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. Unequivocally at least in part an anti-Asian hate crime (one of the businesses was called Young Asian Massage, for heaven’s sake), Reynolds referred to the murders as a result of the suspect’s “lashing out” due to a sexual addiction. With this remark, Reynolds endorsed the dangerous narrative that Jay Baker (captain of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office) perpetuated when he said the shooter was “pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope” and that the day of the murders “was a really bad day for him.”
But the sheriff office’s rancid behavior around the Atlanta mass shooting didn’t end there. Baker, Reynolds’ golden boy, shared an image on Facebook of T-shirts touting the words “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA,” mimicking Trump’s emphatic and offensive pronunciation of “China.” One would think that Reynolds would have put a stop to the loose cannon that is Baker; instead he merely removed him as spokesman for the mass shooting investigation.
Back in 2018, Brice Turner of Woodstock, Georgia was arrested on drug charges and tossed in a holding cell at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center in clear need of medical care. Nearly two hours after being locked up, he was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at the age of 33. Taking a look at Cherokee County jail during the pandemic, Reynolds doesn’t exactly come off looking good. On his watch, at least two prisoners have died due to COVID.
[PLN Editors’ Note: For over 30 years, PLN has published numerous stories covering the corruption, racism, censorship and brutality of sheriffs that operate more than 3,000 American jails. This “Top Ten” list offers a brief glimpse at what happens on a daily basis inside institutions. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an average of more than 1,000 people died annually in US jails between 2008 and 2018, 75 percent of whom had not been convicted at the time of their deaths.]