Law enforcement officials confirmed Tuesday they are investigating a series of texts in which Martin Tourism Director Kris Rudder allegedly made racial slurs and threatened to kill two people.
Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley confirmed on Tuesday that “multiple people” contacted his office about the alleged texts and he asked the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the allegations.
The Floyd County Chronicle and Times has not independently confirmed that the alleged texts were sent by Rudder, as alleged, or that he published posts on Facebook that contained racial slurs, as alleged. Rudder denies the allegations about the alleged threats, saying he was out of town when the alleged texts were sent and he was not aware of them.
“I don’t know nothing about that,” he said, when asked about the texts alleging threats. He acted surprised when the texts were read to him, asking, “Who would do something like that?”
He said he was camping in South Dakota and did not have cell service on the night the texts were sent. He asked for copies of the texts reviewed by the newspaper.
The texts were allegedly sent on June 25 by Rudder to Martin Council member Bonita Compton, a few hours after a Martin City Council meeting. She claims the texts came from Rudder’s cell phone that evening.
At the June 25 meeting, several community members addressed the Martin City Council and Compton raised questions about city financial matters and issues surrounding the city tourism commission. Among those who spoke at the meeting were Deanna Mullins, owner of Jungle Jim’s Inflatables in Martin, who complained about the city tourism’s involvement in the city ballfield, reporting, among other things, that parents had to spread out brick dust on the field and that dugouts are not clean.
Mullins, who said her husband is of Mexican decent, said she learned about the alleged threats on Monday, as did Martin business owner Terry Thornsberry, a vocal opponent of the city’s proposed annexation of outlying areas, who also made various allegations about financial wrongdoings at the meeting.
At 9:33 p.m. that evening, Rudder allegedly sent a text to Compton, telling her that he planned to call the power company the next day to shut off electricity to the ball field and that he was “pulling tourism scoreboards” and equipment from the field.
Compton responded, via text, “I don’t think that is a good idea. Don’t do anything stupid.”
The following text allegedly sent by Rudder to Compton contained a threat against the lives of two people, one of whom is identified as “terry,” and a racial slur about another person.
“Her and terry needs bullets in their heads, don’t know what their (sic) talking about especially that little Mexican (explicative deleted) sucker,” the text reads.
In response to that text, Compton allegedly asked Rudder to “calm down,” saying, “We are trying to get clarity out to the people.”
“Do I think Tourism has issues. YES,” she texted.
Rudder allegedly responded, “Oh old dad here will give clarity to them two, my hand to god.”
The final text provided to the newspaper that was allegedly sent by Rudder reports that he was fired from the city.
“Don’t blame them only,” Compton allegedly wrote. “People just want questions answered.”
Rudder allegedly responded, “Their (sic) the only one that we’re (sic) killing me, but it’s not my problem now. I just been terminated.”
On Tuesday, Rudder denied sending that text as well.
“I’ve never been terminated,” he said.
Compton reported that Mayor Sam Howell reported laying off Rudder via text that evening.
She provided a copy of an alleged text exchange between she and Howell that was time-stamped for 9:40 p.m. on June 25, a few moments after the alleged threats were sent to her phone.
Howell allegedly sent a text informing Compton, “I’m laying Kris off. I just told him.”
Rudder is still employed with the city full time as emergency management director and tourism director in Martin.
Rudder did not deny that he wrote two Facebook posts that allegedly contained racial slurs. Compton provided copies of the Facebook post, in which a maintenance worker is advised to “start checking for green cards and work visas.”
The post commends Charles Hamilton for taking care of the ball field.
“Looks great but I bet we will have some winey (explicative deleted) who’s opinion don’t matter (explicative deleted). Lol!,” the post reads.
“There wasn’t no slurs,” Rudder said. “I was just, now that was because people have been complaining about the ballfield, the grass being so high. You can’t cut grass when it’s wet, you know. That’s common sense. There was no slurs made about the ballfield … I told the maintenance guy who’s busted his but off there every week that you can’t satisfy everybody.”
A portion of the Facebook post also says to Hamilton, “we need to start checking for green cards and work visa when you around at the field.”
Rudder said that comment was about private property, not the ballfield in Martin.
“It didn’t say ball field. That is the house next to him, which I own,” Rudder said. “And me and him have a garden there and there’s some people that work at that Mexican restaurant over there and we’ve been having issues with them and my, stealing my stuff. And I’ve already contacted the Martin County Sheriff’s office about that, but that was nothing in regards — it didn’t say ball field. It said field and that’s our field that we have our garden in and the house right beside of his.”
The alleged threats remained under investigation as of presstime Tuesday.