An audio recording of the Lexington, Mississippi, police chief bragging about how many people he fatally shot while on active duty surfaced this week, sparking an immediate backlash against the officer.
After a watchdog group shared their findings with government officials and the general public, including an account of him describing shooting a Black man over a hundred times, the city moved quickly to fire the veteran officer.
Mississippi Delta community stakeholders were “appalled and angry” after the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting released the 16-minute-long recording on July 19.
The small, predominantly Black town’s leadership fired its chief, Sam Dobbins, on Wednesday, July 20, in response to public outrage, according to the Washington Post.
Numerous foully expressed racist thoughts, punctuated by curse words and explosive revelations about his conduct as an officer, were captured on the April 11 recording by a recently resigned Black officer from the Lexington Police Department named Robert Lee Hooker.
The topic of the conversation was a couple of arrests made in town, which sparked an argument, and the chief began bragging about his history of violence in uniform.
“I’ve killed 13 men in my career, justified,” Dobbins can be heard saying. I’ve shot and killed 13 different people in the line of duty.”
“You shot that many motherf—ers?” Hooker inquired.
“Yes, sir, justified, bro,” says the chief. “Ask around.”
He describes a shootout in a cornfield in which he allegedly told Hooker that he heroically “saved 67 kids in a school” by excessively shooting a Black man.
“I shot that n—– 119 times, OK?” Dobbins recalled. “The vehicle was shot 319 times, but he was hit 119 times by me.”
“I chased this motherf—er all the way across the field.” I had him. In the field, he was DRT [dead right there]. “The vehicle was shot 319 times, but he was hit 119 times by me,” he explained, adding that “he was cleared at the sheriff’s office, where he worked at the time, and received his gun back before he ever sat back down.”
The chief discussed using excessive force to gain respect, joking that he would put a suspect “through the window” and “get your attention real quick.”
On the tape, he also stated, “I don’t give a f— if you kill a motherf—er in cold blood.”
When Dobbins learned of the recording, he pretended to be unaware, first denying saying anything.
“It’s something we don’t discuss, period,” he said of the jokes about killing people while on the job. “I don’t talk like that,” he said when confronted with the slurs.
Despite Hooker quitting his job a week before Dobbins’ termination, claiming the department has a toxic work environment, the audio is believed to be authentic.
Lexington, Mississippi, a town of slightly more than 2,000 people where African-Americans account for 67 percent of the population, pressed the board of aldermen to vote on his dismissal.
The vote took nearly an hour to complete. It was 3 to 1 in favor of firing the man who was appointed chief just a year ago.
“Once we heard it, I was just appalled and angry,” Cardell Wright, JULIAN’s paralegal and president of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, said. It was upsetting to witness hatred in your own backyard. We realized we needed to act quickly.”
Wright stated that issues with Dobbins’ management of the department have been on his radar since Hooker resigned just days after being hired at the beginning of 2022. Hooker was dissatisfied with the chief and how he ran the department.
He later returned to the department, hoping to bring about some sort of accountability.
“He was waiting to see if the chief slipped up again and showed his true colors,” Wright believes.
Hooker told WLBT that he was tired of corruption and 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.”
“And that’s how it came about.”
Despite the fact that Hooker secretly recorded Dobbins, Mississippi is a one-party consent state when it comes to recording conversations.
Jill Collen Jefferson, JULIAN’s founder and president, stated that “the corruption we’re seeing here is on a scale I haven’t seen since the civil rights movement.”
“This audio is damning,” she went on to say. “It’s not just one officer’s reflection.” It reflects an entire policing culture, and it should compel Congress to finally rein in this modern-day slave patrol. This culture does not deserve immunity.”
Lexington’s law enforcement leadership is not lacking. Investigator Charles Henderson has been named interim chief of the department until a permanent replacement is found.