Politics

Embattled South Carolina Sheriff Faces Primary Opposition

Don Reynolds “under the gun” in Laurens County.

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A self-made businessman — and retired lieutenant of the Clinton Police Department (CPD) — has announced his bid for Laurens County sheriff against an embattled administration known lately for scandals involving felonious animal cruelty and explicit male nudity.

On January 19, 2024 Chris Wilkes declared his candidacy against two-time incumbent Donald “Don” Reynolds — a former S.C. Highway Patrol officer who announced his bid for reelection after blasting this outlet for coverage critical of his “leadership.”

Reynolds is the same sheriff who allegedly drew a service revolver and threatened to kill his ex-wife in November of 1985 — the same sheriff who allegedly defaulted on paying child support to the same woman on more than one occasion.

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LIFE OF A “DON” …

Laurens County Sheriff Donald “Don” Reynolds announcing his reelection campaign. (Facebook)

Frequent readers of FITSNews are undoubtedly aware of our ongoing relationship with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) — a law enforcement bureau purportedly “humbled” by our recent unveilings intradepartmental misconducts.

To recap: LCSO lieutenant Timothy Byrd and former animal control sergeant Geoffrey Brown shot three docile dogs with a department-issued shotgun in the presence of officers of the Laurens Police Department (LPD) on December 17, 2022.

Footage of this shooting was provided to our media outlet by S.C. eighth judicial circuit public defender Chelsea McNeill — who concluded Byrd and Brown had committed felonious animal cruelty for the unprovoked shooting of these canines.

Three days after we published McNeill’s findings, Reynolds assailed FITSNews with a 526-word status update on Facebook — claiming we neither contacted him nor gave him an opportunity to respond to the allegations against his department.

We thereafter published an exposé in response — documenting our prior requests for comment as well as Reynolds failure to share his side of things for a second time.

Come Dec. 30, 2023, Brown was abruptly terminated from his nationally recognized position by Reynolds. News of the expulsion was leaked to this author by fellow LCSO deputies and confirmed by paperwork obtained from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA).

“Everyone was told that [Brown] was fired because of inappropriate pictures sent over Facebook Messenger,” said one officer familiar with Brown’s termination. “But we think they’re trying to save face because they don’t want people to know it was over Grindr.”

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The Grindr profile and subsequent selfies — forwarded to this author by several constituents — revealed Brown had an affinity for hosting “otters,” or traditionally masculine men with average levels of body hair … in his neon green hot tub.

For more on LCSO drama over the years, click here or here or here or here.

Following our myriad of revelations, made possible by LCSO whistleblowers and disgruntled civilians alike, Reynolds responded to one of the author’s emails. This, relating to allegations of tampered evidence within the former crime scene laboratory on or around 2021.

That story, as well as a now-leaked department “secret” wreaking of nepotism and corruption, are expected for publication ahead of the Republican primary …

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MEET CHRIS WILKES …

Laurens County Sheriff’s Office candidate Chris Wilkes. (Provided)

A Clinton High School (CHS) graduate and retired CPD lieutenant, Wilkes works part-time with the Presbyterian College Campus Police while focusing full-time on his rental property business, Wilkes Enterprises LLC

Since announcing his campaign, Wilkes’ Facebook post has amassed 10,200 views and 116 shares from early supporters throughout Laurens County. His campaign promises have supposedly prompted Reynolds to redress age-old policies while politely spotlighting his administrative woes.

Of interest? Within two days of Wilkes promising to abolish Reynolds’ “no-beard policy” — amid growing staff shortages in-county — the incumbent lifted his long-standing custom in hopes of “making everyone happy.” 

“I really do want to help people,” Wilkes told this media outlet. “I could care less about the title. What matters to me is helping people because … it seems like everything we’re doing in Laurens County is just ass-backwards and it frustrates me.”

If elected, Wilkes indicated his intention to divert “much needed” resources to the county’s animal control division and subsequent shelter — purportedly at maximum capacity. His proposal? Temporarily lower the $80 adoption fee and spare taxpayers the burden of housing these animals.

“The shelter’s got 75 dogs and eight of them have been there for a year,” Wilkes added. “When you call animal control to report a dog at-large, it’s gotten to the point where they ask, ‘Are the dogs vicious?’ And if you say, ‘No,’ then they’ll tell you the shelter is at maximum capacity and that they can’t respond.”

Wilkes also said he “plans to be a champion for Laurens County by prioritizing fighting the opioid pandemic” which would include “re-introducing drug preventative programs to students in schools.”

He furthermore emphasized “the importance of having a service focused department by strengthening relationships between the sheriff’s department and the citizens of Laurens County.” The candidate intends to strengthen relationships with local agencies throughout the county, if elected.

“By prioritizing the needs of the citizens of Laurens County, we will build trust in a sheriff’s department the people can rely on,” Wilkes added.

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THE ROAD AHEAD …

Sheriff’s races in South Carolina are partisan affairs — meaning candidates run in primary elections prior to appearing on the ballot in November. On June 11, 2024, GOP voters in Laurens County will choose between Reynolds, Wilkes and any other candidate who files to run as a Republican. In the event no candidate wins a majority of votes in the GOP primary, a runoff election would be held on June 25, 2024.

It is worth noting that Reynolds has abstained from debates — or “candidate forums” — through the entirety of his political career, and seems likely that he will continue the trend this election cycle.

Since drawing an opponent, Reynolds has been doing his best to get ahead of potential scandals. Earlier this month, he assailed members of his own administration for “dishonoring their badge[s]” due to “questionable activities” at the county detention. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is handling that investigation.

Count on FITSNews for continued coverage of these campaigns, as well as additional exposés on the inner-workings of sheriffs’ offices across the state. If you know of similar cases that deserve investigative scrutiny, please reach out to this media outlet. We’re not only committed to exposing nefarious activity within government — but steadfast on holding our law enforcement as accountable as they hold the public.

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PRESS RELEASE …

(Wilkes for Sheriff)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Andrew Fancher (Travis Bell)

Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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1 comment

JustSomeGuy Top fan February 21, 2024 at 11:51 am

I think Reynolds’ status as “embattled” is overstated. FITS is the only outlet I have seen that sees his position as being precarious. I am the only subscriber I know in Laurens County. I predict the incumbent take the primary with 65% of of the vote.

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