People in Jackson County were shocked Friday, and have questions about the indictment and arrest of the sheriff they have trusted to uphold the law for more than 12 years.
A county grand jury indicted Sheriff Mike Byrd on 31 criminal charges.
Byrd is remaining in office, county supervisors told the Sun Herald on Friday, and board President Mike Mangum said he wanted to assure the people of the county "deputies in the Sheriff's Office are prepared to do their job as usual, be out on the roads. Nothing has changed for them."
Reactions came in from all areas of the county Friday.
From Moss Point, Supervisor Melton Harris said he has seen the allegations and described them as "severe."
"I think it would be beneficial for the county if he were to step down," Harris said. "I've been told this could drag on for two years.
"Once you have some
thing like this, it's a weekly or daily story and will take away from the positive things we're trying to do in the county. If he's innocent, I hope he's proven innocent. The same if he's guilty. But even his supporters would like to see it resolved as soon as possible."
In Hurley, county Supervisor Barry Cumbest said a lot of people have known the sheriff personally for a long time, and there have been rumors.
"But I think we need to be careful about convicting him. Let the courts do their job. It's easy to jump on someone when this sort of thing happens. If the charges are true, I really hate if for the county. People have put a lot of faith in the sheriff. It would just be sad."
County Tax Collector Joe Tucker said he was in the middle of the annual property-tax sale in the courthouse when the word came down and buyers in the room were abuzz with questions about what would happen next and what caused the charges.
Tucker said he was "shocked" and "surprised."
"Mike has always been good to our department . I hate it has happened."
Sandy Slade Harris, who grew up in Pascagoula and moved to Missouri after Katrina, was in Applebee's in Ocean Springs when she heard what was happening with Byrd.
"My brother had a lot of respect for the sheriff," she said. "It's sad when people you trust and respect fall out of grace. But I won't convict him until he's had a trial and God bless him anyway."
Moss Point Alderman Wayne Lennep said he grew up in Moss Point when Byrd was a police officer there. "My experiences with him have always been positive."
"I hate it," Lennep said. "I believe Sheriff Byrd has been a good sheriff for a long time. It's definitely not a good day for Jackson County."
He said his thoughts and prayers are with Byrd's wife and family.
"No matter what you think of the sheriff, this can't be seen as a good thing," he said. "I hope everybody can just do the right thing we'll get past it."
Pascagoula Mayor Jim Blevins said, "It's a sad day for everybody.
"I hope everything works out in the best interest of our citizens and the county."
Former Gautier Mayor Tommy Fortenberry said, "I don't wish Byrd any harm, but it's a two-edged sword. You live by it and you die by it.
"Nobody gets to where they're above the law."
Gulf Park Estates resident Tammy Klassen, who was shopping at a grocery store in Ocean Springs after the word came down about Byrd, said she wasn't "terribly surprised."
She pointed out Byrd has been in office "a long, long time" and indicated that could be part of the problem.
"It's hard for me to comprehend," she said. "I don't know what the answer is."