Drug unit and SWAT commander resigns amid Hewett's 'erratic behavior'

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

Though one day before his resignation Lt. Mickey Smith led the SWAT team to a state victory, former sheriff Ronald Hewett had banned Smith from staff meetings and forbidden him to come into his office.

Smith, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, served as the head of the drug enforcement unit and the SWAT team during his tenure at the sheriff’s office.

He resigned March 21.

In Smith’s resignation letter to Hewett, he writes, “I feel I am no longer able to perform my duties to this office or the citizens because of the restrictions placed on me by you.

“You have limited the avenue of communication between us by sending messages from subordinates and banning me from staff meetings. This has made my job overwhelmingly difficult and mentally stressful,” Smith’s letter states.

In the sworn affidavit of drug agent Billy Caulk, he states Hewett told him to tell Smith he was not to come to any more staff meetings, and “he did not want to see Mickey Smith in his office or at his office door.”

“Sheriff Hewett also advised [Caulk] he was to tell Mickey Smith he needed to buy a personal vehicle,” Caulk’s affidavit states.

Smith’s affidavit echoes Caulk’s.

Smith said Hewett treated him this way because Smith was subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury.

“In June 2007, I was subpoenaed to appear and testify at the federal grand jury in Raleigh. Since that time I have been personally harassed and have witnessed numerous other employees harassed by Sheriff Ronald Hewett. This conduct includes, but is not limited to, Sheriff Hewett contacting a drug agent under my command on Jan. 9, 2008, and having him advise me and agent Kyle Jones that we were not to go to any more staff meetings on Mondays and Fridays and that agent Billy Caulk would attend those meetings,” he states.

“Agent Billy Caulk stated the sheriff advised that I ‘needed to buy a personal vehicle, and that I was not to speak to him any longer or go to his office.’ Anything needing the sheriff’s signature would have to be delivered by Agent Billy Caulk,” Smith’s affidavit states.

This and other behavior prevented Smith from properly doing his job, and put people in danger, he said.

“As commander of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit and SWAT team I feel this erratic behavior demonstrated by Sheriff Ronald Hewett has jeopardized the safety of all law enforcement officers employed by Brunswick County as well as the citizens of Brunswick County,” Smith’s affidavit states.

“This conduct has resulted in my inability to perform my duties as Lt. of the Brunswick County Drug Enforcement Unit as well as the SWAT team and has also prevented other supervisors from performing their duties.”

Other allegations in Smith’s affidavits include:

• “I have personally observed Sheriff Ronald Hewett at SWAT call outs and crime scenes intoxicated, jeopardizing officers and civilians. These crime scenes include a family reunion on McMilly Road on Sept. 2, 2006, where people were in the street allegedly rioting; a dive team callout on 10-28-05 on Makatoka Road for the homicide investigation of Kendrick Sparrow; an officer-involved shooting in the Leland area; and a SWAT callout on 9-8-03. At that 9-8-03 event Sheriff Ronald Hewett allowed his son Justin to be at the scene and wear department-issue protective gear. I was advised by Capt. Caison that SWAT services were no longer needed because the sheriff and his son made entry into the residence. At the time Justin was under the age of 20 and not a sworn law enforcement officer.”

• “Sheriff Ronald E. Hewett has required me to work while on duty at his personal property at least nine separate occasions since January 2004. Each project consisted of a minimum of one to two days of work. Work done included building landscaping beds, planting trees, spreading pine straw, bedding, raking his road and cleaning ditches, cutting trees, moving debris and laying sod.”

• “Sheriff Hewett has called me numerous times since my promotion in January 2004 during the evening hours talking about other deputies, staff members, or yelling at me. At many of those times he sounded noticeably intoxicated, slurring his speech and repeated himself.”

• “On 6-15-05, I was directed to go to Omni Storage to help paint Hewett’s 4X8 political signs. Others present were Keith Smith, Capt. Kevin Holden and Jim Barr. Capt. Caison arrived later. I was paid by the county on this day.”