MISSISSIPPI SHERIFF FACING FEDERAL MISDEMEANOR CHARGES A FOLK HERO TO MANY FOR WHAT HE DID
With all the missteps and general screwups that federal officials did in the crazy aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sheriff Billy McGee is considered a true hero among many of his constituents in Forrest County, Mississippi...and he's facing federal misdemeanor charges for it.
It seems as though he and three deputies commendeered two ice trucks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency staging area in the Camp Shelby National Guard training base south of Hattiesburg last September 4 to provide ice and water to residents of two communities who had been without either for a week, and the sheriff admits not following FEMA regulations in asking the trucks' drivers to accompany them.
Sheriff McGee has been charged with interfering with, intimidating and impeding a federal officer. He was to have pleaded guilty this week, but the hearing was unexpectedly delayed late Thursday. The plea is part of a deal which would allow McGee to keep his office, run for reelection in the future, and have no action taken against his subordinates.
Across Forrest County, McGee has found lots of support. A group of students from Forrest County Agricultrual High School are circulating a petition on behalf of their sheriff, and residents are speaking out for him, according to this Hattiesburg American story.
"They'll probably guarantee the sheriff re-election for years," [one resident identified only by the last name] Wiseman said. "The federal government has and continues to commit so many missteps in the name of bureaucracy, like the trailers sitting in the mud in Arkansas. Things that just become totally unreasonable to citizens ... turn them against government. You had a local official who understood the plight his citizens were in and acted in contrast to rule-bound bureaucrats up in Washington."
And one resident of the south county community of McLaurin, an EMT named Amanda Skelton who helped staff a makeshift emergency room there in the days following the storm, said the ice helped folks who truly needed it:
"We had diabetics and people who needed ice for medical reasons," she said. "We had people in their 90s who were dehydrated and our were dehydrated. It was pretty desperate."
While the sheriff may have violated strict protocols, he did what he felt he needed to do on behalf of the citizens he was sworn to protect and serve. And from the quote above mentions, his actions very well could have saved several lives. Hurricane Katrina was a "storm of the century" event which noone could have truly been prepared for. When everything is said and done, Sheriff McGee should be saluted for helping his communities, and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Dunn Lampton should seriously consider dropping the charges against a true hero.