The Cajun John Wayne is no more. Capt. Clay Higgins has resigned from the St. Landry Parish sheriff’s office.
Donning a cowboy hat on the steps of the parish courthouse Monday morning, the tough-talking Crime Stoppers spokesman and public information officer made the announcement, saying he could not abide by Sheriff Bobby Guidroz's "current orders," nor can he "work within the parameters that I have been commanded."
"I don't do well reined in," Higgins said, while also noting his love and respect for the sheriff. Higgins was not specific about the "current orders."
Higgins has been under fire from the ACLU and other community groups over the harsh words he used in a mid-February video targeting a St. Landry Parish gang, the Gremlins. Decked out in SWAT gear and holding an assault weapon, Higgins was joined by several dozen law enforcement officials from agencies across the state (and what appears to be area clergymen) to produce the spot, which included images of the alleged gang members, whom Higgins referred to as “animals,” “thugs” and “heathens” and promised to hunt down.
As you might imagine, the video went viral.
A draft copy of the script, inadvertently published by KATC-TV3 (which helped produce the spot) and other media outlets, had Higgins saying there would be a “bounty on their heads,” prompting a quick response from the ACLU:
While we support legal law enforcement and certainly are as concerned as anyone about violence in our neighborhoods, law enforcement officers must be aware of the implications of their public statements. Assuming that what is reported is true, Mr. Higgins has suggested that those he seeks to arrest are subject to execution before trial. The statement that there is a “bounty on their heads” harks back to lawlessness, when people were killed first and questions asked later. That is not the way we operate in a free society, and regardless of Mr. Higgins’ opinions about the guilt of those he seeks to arrest, it is a felony to execute someone simply because you don’t like them.
He refers to those he seeks to arrest as “heathens.” “Heathen” is a religious term, and unless Mr. Higgins has specific information about the religious beliefs of those individuals, it is both inappropriate and incorrect. And even if it’s true that these individuals, or some of them, are religiously “heathen,” that is of no consequence to their status as criminal suspects. Unless Mr. Higgins believes that all law-abiding people share his personal religious faith - and if he does believe that, he should not be an officer of the law - to call someone a “heathen” and equate that to “criminal” is simply insulting, wrong, and potentially a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
We live in a system of laws, and there are legal rights that apply to everyone. It is the job of law enforcement to protect those rights while also keeping our communities safe. Nothing that Mr. Higgins said will make his community safer, but there is much to suggest violations of fundamental rights of all.
Acting on valid arrest warrants in a legal manner is Mr. Higgins’ job. I hope he can do that job well. In doing so he must honor the laws of this country, or he is unfit to serve.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told local media he had not reviewed the script prior to the video. “I think the initial message was good,” Guidroz told The Daily World after the video came under fire. “But I think we’ve gotten away from the initial message of Crime Stoppers.”
On the steps of the St. Landry Parish Courthouse Monday morning, Higgins said he was not forced to resign.
“I will not kneel to violent street gangs. I will not kneel to murderers or the parents that raised them. I will not kneel to a discredited, wanna-be, black activist that doesn’t really have the best interest of his people in mind, who just wants to make a profit. I will not kneel to bureaucrats in Baton Rouge, Washington or anywhere else who have forgotten why they wear a badge and who have forgotten who they serve.” ...
“I would die rather than sacrifice my principles. I would leave my wife without a husband, my children without a daddy, rather than kneel to the very forces of evil that I have so long stood against.”
Higgins said he will continue to serve as a constable and has already had a number of job offers, noting that he has speaking engagements booked through next March. First, however, he said he would disappear for about a week so that he and his wife can pray for guidance about his next move.
According to KATC, Guidroz made the following statement later Monday:
My orders to Higgins was to, ‘tone down’ his unprofessional comments on our weekly Crime Stoppers messages and had nothing to do with the Gremlins video that appeared on the networks. I agree with the Gremlins video. First of all; I repeatedly told him to stop saying things like, ‘you have no brain cells, or making comments that were totally disrespectful and demeaning. Second; Clay Higgins appeared on the cover of a local magazine in full dress uniform without my approval and permission. That too is something he didn’t like me controlling.
As Sheriff, it is my duty and responsibility that the message going out to the public be professional, on point and truthful. The public needs to remember the department public information officer is a spokesperson for the sheriff and represents the sheriff’s words, thoughts and message. If Clay Higgins cannot agree with my words, thoughts and message, then he is correct in resigning his position.
Watch the full video of the resignation announcement here.