Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Please note, because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the swearing in ceremony will be short. There will be no reception following, as originally planned. Persons are asked to wear masks if they feel comfortable doing so and to practice social distancing.

Sabine Parish Sheriff Aaron Mitchell

A lot of folks are excited about Aaron Mitchell taking over as Sabine Parish Sheriff on July 1. And Aaron is very passionate about doing a good job, which is a welcomed change.

Mitchell was born and raised in Negreet, where he graduated from high school in 1979. He is married to the former Leigh Anne Wright and they have five sons and one daughter, along with numerous grandchildren. They live in the Florien area.

The new Sheriff in town began his working career in the oil field and at Boise Cascade before getting into law enforcement. He served as Florien Police Chief and worked as a patrolman for the Fisher Police Department before joining the Sabine Sheriff’s Department. He started as a deputy, then became the juvenile officer/detective after the retirement of the late Darrell Cassell. He later began working as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division.

He has attended numerous schools during his law enforcement career. He attended Police Officers Standardized Training at the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Training Academy. He has also received training in Interviewing and Interrogating Techniques, Office of State Attorney General Domestic Violence Training, Evidence Collecting, Human Trafficking, Homicide Investigations, as well as Cold Case Investigations.

He is known as a hard worker and a man of conviction in his duties as Sheriff. While campaigning last year, he wore out a pair of new boots going to see voters. That says a lot.

In an interview with Observations, the new Sheriff said he will have an administration that is totally transparent. “Community relations are particularly important,” he commented. “I am committed to an open-door policy.” Plans are to have an active social media page, with daily reports on arrests and any other items of interest from the Sheriff’s office, including breaking events.

Sheriff Mitchell is very passionate about the problem with narcotics in the parish and will work diligently to stop the flow of illegal drugs. He stated, “Multiple families in this parish are and have been affected by this problem. Much of the crime in this area is a result of illegal narcotics. We have already been working with Vernon Parish on the illegal flow of drugs.”

Another issue Sheriff Mitchell will address is directing the deputies to patrol every area of the parish, not just the main highways. “All areas of the parish need to be patrolled and deputies will be held accountable,” he remarked.

And he plans to do something about the many problems at the Sabine Parish Detention Center. In recent months it has been as if nobody is watching the store. It is claimed that one prisoner jumped over the chain link fence that is topped with razor wire. Must be a guy from a traveling circus act. Another is said to have squeezed between the gate and a fence post. Must have been a tiny guy. One prisoner stole a patrol car and local officers did not know about it until a deputy in Humble, TX called them about it. Recently a prisoner set a mattress on fire. There have been reports on top of reports of drugs and cell phones being brought into the jail. Only last week, James Allen Crittenden, 39, was charged with possession of contraband in a penal institution. In addition, a prisoner hanged himself in the jail recently and a jailor was caught on film knocking a prisoner to the floor.

So, Sheriff Mitchell is going to do something about all of this, not just say it can’t be stopped. Plans call for the installation of a new camera system, installing additional lighting and repairing the fencing so that a prisoner can’t go over, through, around or under it. In addition, a crew from the Department of Corrections will be brought in to inspect the penal facility and make recommendations. 

All current deputies were required to apply for their jobs with the new administration. Some chose to retire; some were not re-hired. In addition to appointing Brad Walker as Chief Deputy, there have been other positions filled.  Anthony Love Jr. was named Chief Detective. In the meantime, he has been overseeing the three-man Drug Enforcement unit. Longtime employee Guynell Merton has been promoted to Office Manager at the Civil Department. Stacy Etheridge was named Dispatch Manager and Lt. Jason Heard will be in charge of Patrol. “We have good honest people in these slots and we all realize that we work for the people,” Mitchell commented. In the Detention Center, Berlin Sweet was named Warden and Chris Abrahams (who ran for Sheriff last fall) has been named Assistant Warden. “These folks will have to prove themselves,” the new Sheriff said.  “If they can’t do the job, they will be replaced.”

Other items the incoming Sheriff touched on are:

THEFTS IN THE TOLEDO BEND LAKE AREA: “Some of these thefts are being carried on from boats. We will have deputies on the lake. I would like to add one deputy at night so we will have five on duty. We have a growing number of visitors on the Lake during the summer.”

DIVING TEAM:  “We will have a certified diving team to cover the lake. We will work closely with DeSoto Parish on this.”

COLD CASES:  “We will knock the dust off them. Chris Abrahams is interested in looking at them. We will make an effort to solve them.”

THEFT OF DRUG INFORMANT BOOK:  “This case has been going on for a long time. The State Police has been involved in the investigation. We will bring it to a conclusion and give a report to the people.”

AUDIT:  “We will not have our own audit made at the end of the current term. P&N Auditing firm of Lafayette completed an audit a few months ago, and we are pleased with it. We are doing a complete inventory of firearms and equipment.”

AVAILABILITY TO THE PUBLIC:  “I will make myself available to the public by seeing people and by answering and returning phone calls.”

When asked, “Will you be a full-time Sheriff or will you be taking a lot of time off while still receiving your paycheck?” Mitchell responded to the question of job dedication thusly:

JOB DEDICATION:  “I will be a full-time sheriff. I will put in the time necessary and will not be doing a lot of coming in late and taking off early.”

Last weekend, I ran across a story which appeared in The Natchitoches Times on April 14, 1960 about a demonstration some 350 Northwestern students held demanding an extra Easter holiday. The report said the demonstration was leaderless. Following a parade on Front St., they blocked College Ave. by sitting down, but moved when threatened with a hosing by Police Chief Boyd B. Durr.

Forty-two students were arrested and jailed, including two girls, and charged with disturbing the peace. Chief Durr commented, “I will not tolerate any such demonstration either in town or on the campus.” The Sheriff’s Office, State Police and Campus Security joined in quelling the ruckus. Boy, could we use Chief Durr now.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP:  Recently a Sabine Parish law enforcement officer was passing through Robeline on the way to answer an emergency call.  It was at night and the officer had his blue lights flashing. Since he was responding to an emergency, he proceeded safely but did not obey the village’s posted speed limit.

In a moment, he noticed some flashing lights behind him. He did not stop as he thought it was another officer on his way to the same Sabine emergency. After a bit, he thought he heard a siren. Near where Mark Schoth lives, he pulled off to see what the Robeline officer wanted.

Guess what? The Robeline officer advised him of his speed through town and started to treat their encounter like a speeding stop. Apparently, the Robeline officer thought for a second he was going to write a ticket. When the situation was explained, the Robeline officer claimed he didn’t see the Sabine Parish car’s flashing blue lights.

Must have been asleep and awakened abruptly?

The car in front features “ghost lettering,” pale, barely distinguishable graphics on a similarly-colored vehicle.

Speaking of Robeline, a reader sent us this photo taken Monday afternoon. That’s a Louisiana State Police car with what they call “ghost lettering” and a Robeline speed trap ticket writer. The “ghost letters” seem intended to keep members of John Q. Public from knowing at first glance it’s a law officer. You might call Monday a “Two Fer One Day.” Again, Robeline is a “Speed Trap Town.” Slow down to 30 when you go through. There will be a lot of folks on their way to Toledo Bend for the July 4th holiday. Be sure to tell your friends and loved ones to slow down for the Ro Bo Po Po. Just not good for tourism.

Last week we carried a story about the sign for the “White City Rd” being taken down by a two-man crew from the State Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). The road is just north of Hornbeck but in Sabine Parish.

Observations made inquiries to DOTD and the Sabine Parish Police Jury as to why the sign was taken down and who made the request for its removal.

ANSWER FROM ERIN BUCHANAN, Public Information Officer for DOTD in Bossier City:  “The White City Road sign was placed on top of one of our stop signs by the Sabine Parish Police Jury (which is common practice), and the stop sign had been hit and damaged. When our crew was out there to address the issue, the bracket that holds the street sign broke. Our crew left the White City Road sign there at the base of the pole. The Sabine Parish Police Jury was notified that they are free to replace the street sign at any time.”

ANSWER FROM BILL WHEATHERFORD, Secretary Sabine Parish Police Jury:  “The sign in question was located on a DOTD sign post with a stop sign. The DOTD was doing routine sign maintenance and noticed that the street sign’s bracket was broken. They did not have a bracket to repair the street sign; therefore, they removed the Parish street sign. The Parish Road Maintenance Department is aware of the sign being taken down and is in the process of replacing the sign on a Parish sign Post.”

Willie Stewart, who lived near the intersection, came to the road when he heard the DOTD crew there. He said the earlier “White City Rd” sign was not on top of a stop sign and that a stop sign had not been hit and damaged. Further, he verified that the “White City Rd” sign was on the opposite site of the road from the stop sign, and it was not damaged. He was told it was being taken down because it was on highway right-of-way and they had a work order to do it. They did not have orders to take down any other sign on highway right-of-way. After the DOTD folks took down the sign, Willie took possession of it and will erect it on his nearby property.

It is interesting to note, that the Police Jury replaced the sign last Friday, after Willie had earlier made a big issue of it, and they placed the new sign just down from the stop sign, but still on the highway right-of-way.

For more details, read last week’s Observations. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. We will continue to look into it and hopefully will share with you soon the real culprit behind the bazaar matter.

The following was written by my wife Laurie. Together, we have watched in dismay as statues around the nation have been defaced and torn down almost daily. It is hard to understand the logic behind some of the destruction we see.

Is Anything Sacred Anymore?

Every day we watch more statues get defaced and torn down, and we listen to defiant threats on city streets that what we’ve seen is just the beginning.

So far, it’s gone from Confederate monuments and memorials to statues of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Juan Ponce de Leon, a Texas Ranger, Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key, among others.

“[Ulysses S. Grant] was a ‘slave owner’ in that he was gifted a slave, hated the idea, and freed him within a year. Then won the Civil War, prosecuted the KKK, and appointed African Americans to prominent roles in government,” Matt Whitlock wrote on twitter. “This might have gotten out of hand,” he tweeted. You think?

I believe tearing down statues comes from a much deeper place than simplistic symbolism. It’s starting to look like a cultural rebellion against the quaint idea that anything is sacred.

If something is well-regarded enough to be memorialized in its era, it implies there exist values, standards of excellence, character and achievements worthy of notice.

We are watching a full-on rejection in some parts that there is anything that should be appreciated, including the Lincoln Emancipation Memorial, which had Frederick Davis’ full support, by the way. Davis spoke when it was dedicated, and the monument was entirely funded by freed slaves.

Now, activists of every stripe and color can’t see past the ends of their own pull-ropes to even contemplate these art objects beyond a quick mental stamp as “racist” or some other abhorrent label.

Are we watching folks in action who cannot accept anything beyond self and personal viewpoints as sacred? As a society, are we starting to lose the concept of honoring something other than self?

It’s as if the especially woke feel morally equal, (I suspect most feel morally superior), to the remarkable minds, noble character, and amazing leadership of historical figures, who were the subjects of the monumental art now being destroyed. Of course those leaders were flawed. Aren’t we all? And won’t future generations look back on us, just as we look back now, and marvel at how times, culture and sensitivities have changed?

It may be that for a growing number of activists, honoring anything beyond self and what they believe to be true at the moment is simply too traditional. I don’t know. Guess we’ll see.

I am certainly curious what will happen to our remaining historical monuments and war memorials.

A lot of what’s going on is simply destruction for destruction’s sake. Apparently, these poor souls are witless enough that raw destruction feels like power. They tear down or paint a statue and think they’ve “done something.” But when they lie down at night, (or the next morning as it may be), their efforts make zero difference in their lives or the lives of those they say they care about. The vandals are, however, performing brilliantly on behalf of those who are successfully playing them.

God knows the shifting sands of moral relativism, hyper-sensitivity and ever-changing values will never support something set in stone.

I will tell you this, though:  If we become a society that holds nothing sacred, no one is safe. You can mark it down.

Early voting for the Saturday, July 11, election is now underway and will continue until Saturday, July 4, in the Registrar of Voters Office in the Courthouse.

On the ballot will be delegates to the Presidential Conventions and Florien Chief of Police. We will have a story about Jackson Kleven who is running for Chief in next week’s Observations.

Our longtime, faithful Registrar of Voters Kristi McCormick has announced that she will soon be retiring. The Sabine Police Jury is now accepting applications and resumés for her replacement. Deadline to file is July 8 at 4 p.m.

My youngest daughter, Verity Gentry, has opened up a law office on San Antonio Ave. across from the Sabine Theater in Many. She also has an office in Shreveport.

On Sunday, Faye LaCheng posted the following testimony about Verity on Facebook:  “When I was stuck in a big court pickle and needed help, I found Verity Gentry, so I called her and she took my case like a pro right when I needed her the most! She worked around an affordable payment method and kept working as hard as she could. She definitely defeated anyone who went against us! She saved my life a couple years ago. If it weren’t for her, I would be a goner! If you are looking for a good lawyer to be there for you, I recommend Verity Gentry. Thank you again, Ms. Gentry!”

We stay in touch regularly with our good friend and Marthaville native Ronny Byrd, who lives in Virginia. 

This week he writes:  “Good for Willie Stewart; we need more like him. These anarchists are, in my opinion, part of the leftists’ plot to take down our President. I saw a tweet, later deleted, by that fool Representative leftist AOC in which she pointed out that they had to delay the economic recovery so that Trump would be less likely to be re-elected. I have to believe that there is massive resistance to him, organized very well, and that includes not only delaying economic recovery, but encouraging this anarchy. Lots won’t realize that it is the states and local governments who are responsible for law and order and will blame it on the President. But those cities and states that are Democrat-run are allowing hell to break loose, hoping that the unrest will cause voters to look at Biden to rescue the Nation. What a joke that would be. A senile old man with a history of racism and abusing women. All of that will be ignored by the media as they spin every incident so that the President looks bad. He has done more for the USA and for blacks than any president in recent history, if not ever. Can’t get a single story with a positive leaning from the mainstream media. The deep state and his own party haven’t helped either. Too many of them decry a non-politician in the highest office, but that’s what makes him popular with the masses. If that voting scam (mail-in ballots for all) is allowed, we can forget saving the USA from the socialists. We will be in such deep stuff that we likely will not survive.”

Gutted by fire – the Arnold residence was a complete loss.

When it rains, it pours. The Arnold family can attest to that. Remember back in late January when we brought you the story of how area storms had torn the roof off the Arnold home? Well, they don’t have to worry about that anymore. Their home was destroyed completely by fire a little over two weeks ago. Everything was lost – everything, including one family pet. 

“There are six of us,” Lori Arnold said. “It’s been incredibly difficult.” Despite losing everything except the clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet, Arnold is thankful to God their lives were spared.

Readers may recall Lori works at the Many Brookshires location that was once Big Star.

“I thank God every day for those who have reached out to help,” Lori said. “I thank Him and praise Him because it could have been so much worse. We made it out alive.”

It is believed to have been an electrical fire that started in one of the bedrooms of the family’s mobile home. Lori said the lights started flickering crazily and there was a faint haze around the ceiling. She noticed what looked like smoke coming over the top of a bedroom door, and when she opened it, she was met by a wall of flames and smoke.

“Everything just seemed to catch up [on fire] so fast, and it just kept growing. We lost everything. One of the family pets didn’t make it. We couldn’t get to him,” Arnold shared with sadness.

“A couple from church brought over a camper trailer so we’re now spread out between the camper, the storage building on air mattresses and a parent’s house,” she said. “We had to buy a generator because it took Swepco ten days to turn our power back on. Benton Riggs was wonderful. He came and took out an old [mobile home] frame to make room for another trailer. It’s been incredibly difficult but everyone has been so good to us. …Now we’re at the point of trying to find another trailer,” Arnold explained.

A day after the tragedy, Lori’s daughter Samantha posted on social media, “Never once in my life have I had to wonder where I’d sleep tonight, where I’d shower or eat. But now I do. We never thought this would happen to us, that this doesn’t happen to good people, but it does.”

Since then, the family has received help, but there is much, much more that is needed, including a trailer or funds to get one.

“To all of you who have taken the time and effort to gather up clothes, donate your hard-earned money, to find the GoFundMe, thank you,” shared Lori. “For you who have called or stopped by and checked on us, thank you as well. Especially to you who have lifted our names up to God, we cannot thank you enough. We’ve never dealt with anything like this before and it is overwhelming.  …Please continue your prayers for us if you don’t mind. It’s hard to wait on God’s timing when we want something now. We love you all so much and I’m asking God to open the storehouses for you all,” she said.

Family friend Jacob Slaughter organized a GoFundMe effort online. Please search Arnold Family Housing and Relief Fund to donate. Said Slaughter, “Lori and her family have been a second family to me and were an integral part of helping me become the person I am today. This afternoon, they lost their house, all of their belongings, and one of their family dogs in a fire. It left one family member injured, and the rest of the family is completely devastated with nowhere to go. …please consider donating to this cause.” So far his effort has raised $775 of a $5,000 goal.

Another GoFundMe effort to offset family expenses is listed as Wesley and Sam Emergency Fund organized by Melanie Simon Heaton. A total of $1,660 has been raised of a $3,000 goal.

We encourage all who can to donate any amount possible to help the Arnold family replace their home and belongings. If you have or know of a mobile home that may be donated or obtained with little expense, please message Lori Arnold on Facebook. Every little bit helps.

Having lived through the tragedy of a fire, we are keenly aware of the great loss that is experienced. Thank you in advance for your generous support.

JULY 4TH CONCERT CANCELLED

“The Stewart Family and Friends God Bless America Again show will not be performed on July 4. Faced with a decision to limit attendance to only 50%, we reluctantly decided to postpone this patriotic concert until a later date when everyone could safely attend,” said Mary Brocato, Many Cultural District Chairperson.

The decision to postpone was a joint decision between family patriarch Willie Stewart, Many Mayor Ken Freeman and Brocato.

“It was a very difficult decision to postpone the concert. It would have been so special to have it on the Fourth of July. But we would have had to limit the number of people admitted to only 100, and many more people were planning to attend. By postponing it to a later date, everyone can safely attend,” explained Brocato. 

She added, “We are also cancelling movies and all events at the Many Community Center for the entire month of July. Hopefully we can open up again in August.”

Patriots and Pres. Trump enthusiasts are invited to take part in a “Toledo Bend Lake Trump Boat Parade” on Saturday, July 4 at 10 a.m.

According to their recent information posted, “We will meet near the Dam and head north to Pendleton Bridge on Louisiana side, then cross the lake and come south on Texas side.

“Please feel free to join the parade as we come by at any point or exit as needed during this route. Please remember that everyone’s safety is our top priority; there will be numerous boats and everyone is there to have a great time and represent our great president.

“Let’s respect each other as well as each other’s belongings. Please keep a safe distance in between boats to avoid a dangerous situation.

“All boats should display Trump items such as signs, flags, banners, etc. …a few LSU items won’t hurt either!”

The event is to start at 10 a.m. sharp and no alcohol is allowed. Nothing may be pulled behind any boats, either, such as tubes, boards, skies, etc.

It was noted the boat parade is in friendly competition with a similar event on Sam Rayburn Lake, which hopes to have about 100 boats. “We gotta beat that!” organizers said.

We wish you and yours a very Happy Independence Day this Saturday!

Freedom does not come easily. On the Fourth of July we celebrate the bravery of our ancestors and their gift of freedom. Let us be mindful of everything we can do for our nation to make it a place of peace, happiness, wealth and freedom for all.

May you and your family enjoy a safe and Happy Independence Day filled with patriotic spirit!

That is all for this last Wednesday in June. My, how this year is flying by – already half gone! Thanks for faithfully reading. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future articles. Call me at (318) 332-8653 or send an email to robertrgentry@gmail.com. To see Observations of the last few years, follow the pages below. To see older ones, visit our Facebook page. To save, send or print this week’s column, click on the appropriate icon below.

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