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Tough-talking captain in Louisiana sheriff’s office resigns after calling black suspects ‘animals’ in viral video

Clay Higgins, the brash, outspoken captain of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office, resigned Monday after he appeared in a viral video calling a group of predominantly black gang members “animals.”

Higgins, a God-fearing man of the law with a deep southern drawl, had appeared in a series of widely popular “crime stoppers” videos that drew in millions of viewers. His tough-talking, straight-shooting approach made him a folk hero in Opelousas, La., and earned him a cult following online.

“You can run but you can’t hide,” Higgins said in one video, addressing his quarry with a hand resting on the grip of his pistol. “We will find you.”

Higgins’s resignation came 10 days after a video circulated online through the Acadiana, La., ABC affiliate KATC in which he called for wanted members of the Gremlins gang to turn themselves in.

Addressing the suspected criminals, Higgins called the alleged gang-members “thugs,” “heathens,” and “animals.”

“We have felony warrants for your arrest,” Higgins said directly into the camera in the video, holding a semi-automatic assault rifle. “You will be hunted. You will be trapped. And if you raise your weapon to a man like me, we’ll return fire with superior fire.”

[Meet the ‘Cajun John Wayne,’ the deputy whose meme-worthy videos terrify criminals]

Higgins’s tough talk quickly attracted criticism from the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We live in a system of laws, and there are legal rights that apply to everyone,” the ACLU said in a statement sent to KATC. “It is the job of law enforcement to protect those rights while also keeping our communities safe. Nothing that Mr. Higgins said will make his community safer, but there is much to suggest violations of fundamental rights of all. . .In doing so he must honor the laws of this country, or he is unfit to serve.”

Higgins appears later in the Gremlins gang video with members of the sheriff’s office standing shoulder-to-shoulder with leaders of the black community of St. Landry Parish.

“This is not about race,” Higgins said. “It’s about right versus wrong.”

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby J. Guidroz said in a press release obtained by KATC that he had accepted Higgins’s resignation.

“My orders to Higgins was to, ‘tone down’ his unprofessional comments on our weekly Crime Stoppers messages,” Guidroz said. “He disagreed with my orders.”

Guidoz said he accepted Higgins’s resignation but said that his removal from the department was not directly tied to the Gremlins video, but his overall tone in the videos.

In a September appearance on a CBS show, Higgins described himself as “a cowboy with something to say.” CBS This Morning also reported that in 2015 nine suspected criminals had turned themselves in since Higgins began his videos.

Higgins announced his decision to hand over his badge at a press conference on the steps of the St. Landry Parish courthouse.

“I will not kneel to violent street gangs,” Higgins said according to KATC. “I will not kneel to murderers or the parents that raised them. . .I would die rather than sacrifice my principles.”