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Shouting match breaks out ahead of Barry County meeting discussing Sheriff's comments on kidnapping suspects

"I just stand behind the rule of law," Sheriff Dar Leaf said in front of Barry County commissioners Tuesday morning
Posted at 9:43 AM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 16:26:21-04

HASTINGS, Mich. — A shouting match between supporters and opponents of Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf broke out outside the county hall Tuesday morning.

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Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf is facing controversy after he recently made comments about a group of men now facing state and federal charges over an alleged plot to kidnap, torture and kill government officials, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Sheriff Leaf spoke on stage with several of the men arrested at a Grand Rapids rally in May.

“I haven't read everything up on it, I've got other duties to do, it wasn't our investigation. I was shocked, did not see this coming with those guys, but still we can't convict them in the media here, they do have a right to a fair trial,” Leaf told FOX 17 in an interview Thursday night about the arrests.

Leaf said Thursday that he didn't have any regrets about being on stage with him.

“It’s just a charge, and they say a 'plot to kidnap' and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still in Michigan if it's a felony, make a felony arrest,” Leaf said.

Several people applauded as Sheriff Dar Leaf walked into the Barry County Hall Tuesday morning. As the applause died down, several protesters out front began yelling in opposition.

Eventually the Sheriff and just over a dozen citizens were able to file into the hall.

Sheriff Dar Leaf was called to speak in front of the commission about 15 minutes into the meeting.

“There was an evil plot to attack the capitol and to injure or kill our governor and the evil that brought rise to it is disguising and reprehensible and doesn’t reflect our values,” one of the commissioners said once Sheriff Leaf went over some recent crime statistics for his office.

When asked if he would like to clarify any comments recently made in regards to recent arrests over an alleged plot to kidnap government officials, Sheriff Leaf said, “I just stand behind the rule of law”.

There was several seconds of silence until one of the commissioners asked about vigilante justice.

“Vigilante justice, nobody should be taking…,” the commissioner said.

Sheriff Leaf interrupted, “absolutely not.”

The sheriff then left the hall, several people in the gallery giving him thumbs up as he walked past.

Several citizens were then given the chance to speak in front of the commission, both supporters of the Sheriff and those urging his exit.

“He is excellent. He is known across the state as one of the number one constitutional sheriffs and we need more people like him not less,” one man said.

More than half of the people speaking Tuesday morning were in support of Sheriff Leaf remaining in his post.

“The sheriff has exhibited a dangerous pattern of sympathy towards these militia members who have been charged with state-wide terrorism,” another person said.

A woman who spoke in support of the sheriff said, “Just because he refused to condemn these people, you don’t take away all the wonderful things he’s done for us.”

County commissioners did not offer an opinion one way or the other Tuesday morning.

While one man asked them, “will his actions embolden a new demographic of people who seek to bring violence into our community under the guise of a militia?”

One of the men involved in the early morning shouting match outside the hall was Adam Heikkila, an event organizer for American Patriot Rally. Heikkila said he was the one who invited Sheriff Leaf to the Grand Rapids rally back in May.

“So I just kind of felt I should be here to stand up for him,” Heikkila told FOX 17 Tuesday morning.

“Our rally there in Grand Rapids was about understanding our rights through the constitution. Why do we have a militia named in our constitution as something we should have? It is to protect our rights as people."

Heikkila says the group will be participating in state and nation-wide march on October 24.

When FOX 17 asked Sheriff Leaf for comment after leaving the meeting, he said, "No resignation.”