A second-term Mississippi county prosecutor posted — and then deleted — a Facebook comment in which she apparently expressed optimism that “the deadly strain” of coronavirus should spread among rioters protesting the police-custody death of George Floyd, according to a new report.
Pamela Hancock, who was first elected Madison County prosecutor in 2015 and reelected in 2015, was responding to someone else’s post, which read, “Does Covid spread during massive street riots or just in bars and restaurants? Asking for a friend,” Mississippi Today reported.
In a since-deleted comment, Hancock replied, “We can only hope the deadly [coronavirus] strain spreads in riots!” according to the report.
Hancock, whose duties include bringing misdemeanor charges against individuals in justice court and county court — including disorderly conduct, trespassing and driving under the influence — told the outlet she would prosecute those involved in the rioting.
“My job is to prosecute all crimes, including civil disobedience,” she said. “I’m against any breach of peace or criminal activity, and I would prosecute it. I have nothing against people peacefully protesting, but breaking into businesses and stealing things is a crime.”
But when asked about her “hope” that the virus would kill rioters, she stepped back.
The comment from Pamela HancockFacebook
“I was really just making light of it,” Hancock told the outlet. “I was not serious about wanting anyone to die. That’s not who I am. The post was kind of a joke, and I was attempting to joke back. Obviously, I did it very poorly. If you ask anybody that knows me, I don’t hold any ill will towards anyone or any group. I only try to be fair.”
Brandon Jones, policy director at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson, told the outlet that prosecutors should “be reflective about how we talk about these issues,” and Hancock’s post “sends all the wrong messages.”
“We worry when people like Ms. Hancock say these things because of what message it might send to people who might have to face her in court,” he said. “It erodes the public’s trust that they’re going to be treated fairly with comments like this, even if they were in jest.”
But Hancock said she “never meant to offend anybody” and the comment “was not directed toward anyone except for people that were rioting.”
“What I saw on TV seemed to be people of all races,” she told the outlet. “If you ask anybody that knows me, I don’t hold any ill will towards anyone or any group.”
“When I prosecute, I don’t look at someone’s color,” Hancock added. “I look at the crime they committed, the facts of the case… I only try to be fair.”