LOOK BACK: Mike Byrd's career as sheriff - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

LOOK BACK: Mike Byrd's career as sheriff

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JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Mike Byrd once said being sheriff in Jackson County was a life-long dream.  After all, it's a job his father Cecil once held.

In 1999, Byrd defeated then-sheriff Pete Pope by just 165 votes. But his three reelections came with wide margins of victory.

In 2006, Byrd endured a tragedy that still haunts him - the death of his son, Pascagoula Police Terry Byrd. The younger Byrd was a motorcycle officer who died in a collision with a car.

(WLOX.com Archive: Church Family Remembers Byrd As "A Fine Christian Man" http://bit.ly/147fGXk

Byrd's strong sense of right and wrong put drug dealers and pedophiles in the crosshairs. But in recent years, pursuit of those kinds of cases brought criticism of Byrd for being overzealous, even to the point that some in the community believed he was abusing his power.

Dr. David Allen was among those critics. The Jackson County heart surgeon and his property were the targets of a raid by the Narcotics Task Force, and allegations marijuana was growing on Allen's land. 

"This was all an invention by the drug task force. They planted photographs and other things that will come out in the future, they tried to vilify me," Dr. Allen told WLOX News. "I think Sheriff Mike Byrd targeted me."

(WLOX.com Archive: Former Pascagoula surgeon claims he was targeted by Sheriff Byrd http://bit.ly/15n42bJ

Allen was tried, but the jury could not reach a verdict. Then the district attorney said there would be no second trial and dropped all charges against Allen.

Last year, the Narcotics Task Force was the subject of a state investigation after a shooting at the agency's office. The incident was the subject of rumors for months, until the sheriff finally confirmed an officer was injured after another officer's gun went off.    Byrd called it a accident, and a personnel matter.

"Well, what I meant by accidentally was that the debris that hit the officer was an accident that it hit him," Byrd said at the time.

(WLOX.com Archive: Sheriff Byrd talks in-depth about task force controversy http://bit.ly/1fp5t8s)  

Questions about a possible coverup didn't sit well with Byrd. 

"It states it right here in federal law that you can't release information involving internal investigations of employees, whether it's law enforcement or other. So nobody has tried to cover anything up. I'm bound by law," Byrd told WLOX News. "You've got to have a victim that makes a complaint. We don't have that here. We have two officers that made a mistake, they admitted it, and they were disciplined. That's the end of the story, as far as I'm concerned."

The incident let to the breakup of the task force. The police chiefs in Moss Point, Pascagoula and Gautier pulled their officers out of the county agency. Ocean Springs eventually left too.

(WLOX.com Archive: Jackson County drug task force in disarray http://bit.ly/16XF5AV

Byrd perused with passion people his investigators believed to be downloading child pornography from the internet. 

"We are not going to tolerate this," Byrd said in 2010. "If you download child pornography, you are going to get arrested. It is just that simple and it doesn't matter who you are."   

Jackson County made dozens of child porn arrests, but in recent months, 18 of those cases were thrown out due to lack of evidence.

(WLOX.com Archive: Jackson County Sheriff investigators' credibility questioned http://bit.ly/15dE5FK)

One of them was the case against former Ocean Springs Alderman James Hagan. Hagan is now suing the county, deputies and Byrd for $30 million in damages.

(WLOX.com Archive: Alderman cleared of disturbing charges set to sue Sheriff Byrd, others http://bit.ly/14Lmjgt)

Still, the sheriff has remained confident in the cases; even the ones that didn't result in prosecutions. Last month, Byrd sent out a statement blasting critics with "political aspirations" and criticism in the media.

(WLOX.com Archive: Byrd blasts critics "who have political aspirations" http://bit.ly/1dYVcSt

Byrd said in part he takes "strong issue with the implication that the Jackson County Sheriff's Department has failed to perform its role as a law enforcement agency."

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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    Friday, August 30 2013 11:21 PM EDT2013-08-31 03:21:12 GMT
    The 31 count indictment against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd culminates months of criticism and speculation about his future. Charges on the list include fraud, embezzlement, witness tampering...More >>
    The 31 count indictment against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd culminates months of criticism and speculation about his future. Charges on the list include fraud, embezzlement, witness tampering, perjury and extortion. And one of the extortion charges even accuses Byrd of demanding sexual favors from a female deputy, who he threatened to demote if she didn't comply.More >>
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