The chief of police in the predominantly Black town of Lexington, Mississippi, was fired this week after a leaked recording published by an investigative news outlet revealed that the white official bragged about killing 13 people in the line of duty – including shooting one Black man at least 119 times.
A 16-minute audio recording – which was reportedly recorded in April by another officer and provided to a civil rights group – includes now-former police chief Sam Dobbins delivering a racist tirade of admissions.
“I have shot and killed, in the line of duty, 13 different people,” he said, according to the recording, which was obtained by civil rights group JULIAN and first reported by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.
The recording was captured by officer Robert Lee Hooker, who resigned from the department citing a toxic work environment under Mr Dobbins, who was promoted to chief last year.
“I knew that once I could get him talking, he was going to say something out of line,” Mr Hooker told Mississippi’s WJTV.
“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,” he told WLBT. “And that’s how it happened.”
The recording begins with Mr Dobbins appearing to refuse an apology to Mr Hooker.
“You’re going to get in some s*** in the streets, and there’s only going to be one man fighting for you, and it’s going to be me, OK?” Mr Dobbin can be heard saying. “Don’t ever ruin that, all right, because these other n******, they’ll leave you dry. I don’t give a f*** if you kill a m*********** in cold blood... I will articulate to fix the f****** problem, and I’m the only man in the business here that’s smart enough to do it.”
He then claims to have “killed 13 men in my career, justified”.
At one point in the recording, while describing an alleged shootout, Mr Dobbins claimed that he “saved 67 kids in a school” by shooting a Black man more than 100 times.
“I shot that n****** 119 times, OK?” he said. “The vehicle was shot 319 times, but he was hit 119 times by me.”
On Wednesday, Lexington’s board of aldermen representing the town of roughly 1,600 people – nearly 80 per cent of whom are Black – voted 3-2 to fire Mr Dobbs, effective immediately.
Lexington residents have previously described the police department as treating the town like “the wild, wild west,” alleging widespread police violence and abuse.
More than a dozen residents addressed the board of alderman during a hearing in December to bring the issue directly to city leadership.
At least 286 people have been killed by police in 2022, according to the Mapping Police Violence project. Analysis of data tracked by The Washington Post finds that at least 1,054 people were killed by police between July 2021 and July 2022.
Jill Collen Jefferson, the founder and president of JULIAN, told The Washington Post that the audio is “damning”.
“It’s not just a reflection of one officer. It’s a reflection of an entire culture of policing, and it should spur Congress to finally rein in this modern-day slave patrol. A culture like this does not deserve immunity,” she said.
Cardell Wright with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party said in a statement that Mr Dobbins’ remarks are “neither the behavior nor rhetoric that should stem from any officer, especially the chief.”
The group has called for “an end to police brutality, mistreatment, abuse of power, false accusations, complacency among the elected officials, and all political games” as well as the dissolve of the city’s police force in the wake of the recordings.
Mr Dobbins told the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting that he was unaware of a recording and denied using slurs. He declined to comment on the alleged shootings, according to the outlet.
The Independent also has requested comment from the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office.