Two Jackson County deputies have been suspended with pay while Sheriff Mike Byrd conducts an investigation into allegations they used excessive force on an inmate at the county jail. Byrd said Friday he is planning to have Deputies Kevin Landry and Robbie Slater fired from the sheriff's department.
The investigation started after inmate Ngan Tran claimed the two deputies had beaten him after being arrested on capital murder charges in November last year. The two deputies worked shifts at the county's Adult Detention Center, where Tran was being held. Several days after the investigation began, Tran committed suicide in the jail.
"There is a disciplinary procedure being conducted as a result of an investigation into violations of the Standard Operating Procedure. This procedure has not reached its conclusion and any final disciplinary measures have not been initiated,'' Byrd said in a statement.
All personnel matters involving the sheriff's department must go through the Civil Service Commission. Because of that, Byrd said it will take several weeks for all the paperwork and procedures to be processed.
The notice of the intent to terminate the deputies is part of the personnel procedure under the department's Civil Service policy. The official notice of termination will follow later.
Boyce Holleman, an attorney representing Kevin Landry, said he does not understand why Byrd suspended Landry when an FBI investigation is still underway, or why Byrd is trying to fire Landry.
"He's a civil service employee, and he can't be fired for political reasons. He can't be fired except for good cause, and we don't think good cause exists, and we don't know about the political reasons,'' Holleman said.
Byrd said the suspensions have nothing to do with politics. Byrd said the investigation that resulted in the disciplinary action began before Tran's death.
"I will not tolerate police misconduct, and it is a result of this internal investigation that this action is being done,'' Byrd said.
Tran, 27, and Thong Le, were charged with three counts of capital murder in the death of a woman and her two daughters. The pair, who were indicted on the charges in late November 2001, had been in the jail since their arrest earlier that month.
Le is expected to go to trial on Aug. 19. Tran, who was in a single cell, was found hanging from a light fixture in the cell in April. An autopsy indicated the death was a suicide.