Jackson County leaders react to Sheriff Mike Byrd's plea deal

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Less than two weeks from now, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd is scheduled to plead guilty to witness tampering. The sheriff has signed a plea agreement with the feds. That plea could end up sending him to prison for as long as 20 years. This confession will cost him his job as sheriff, as well.

"It is sad day. It is a sad day for law enforcement; it is a sad day, Jackson County," Chief Keith Davis said.

Moss Point Chief Keith Davis said it is disappointing to hear the chief law enforcer of the county admits to breaking the law.  Davis's department, as well as Pascagoula and Gautier, severed ties with Sheriff Mike Byrd after revelations that he helped cover-up a shooting the county's narcotics task force office.

"Regardless of who you are, you have to carry that badge with pride and people understand and know that you are doing the right thing even when nobody is looking," Davis said.

Jackson County supervisors Troy Ross and John McKay couldn't agree more.  The federal plea deal is not connected to the 31 state charges Byrd faces.  Those charges include embezzlement, extortion fraud and perjury.

"It is sad that Sheriff Byrd has a 40 year law enforcement career, and for majority of that he did an outstanding job. I feel sorry for him and his family," McKay said.

Supervisor Melton Harris was the one of first to call for Byrd's resignation. The new charge reaffirms that.

"The sooner the better, I would say. The sooner the better."

If or when Byrd decides to resign, the supervisors are responsible for appointing an interim sheriff until a special election is held.

"There are some qualified individuals out there, but the question is should it be somebody within the county, or in the department, or outside," Harris said.

As for now, county leaders are focusing on repairing the image of law enforcement in Jackson County.

"The actions of one individual shouldn't give a black eye to an entire community. Unfortunately, it does. But we can overcome it," said Supervisor Ross.

Byrd is currently serving his fourth term as sheriff.

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