The Press Register
JONESTOWN — Fernando Bee, chief deputy of the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office, promised the mayor’s stay-at-home order would be enforced during the Jonestown City Council meeting Monday afternoon.
Mayor Kenny Lester closed the town of Jonestown from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning March 22 after the coronavirus outbreak and that coincided with Gov. Tate Reeves order to shutdown the state.
After Reeves’ stay-at-home order took effect at 5 p.m. Friday afternoon, law enforcement announced plans to step up its game once again. Bee spoke about the importance of staying at home, not spreading the virus and explained the serious consequences of violating the order.
“Everybody is thinking, at this point, we’re good until 5,” Bee said. “At 5, we’ve got to go home, but that’s really not the truth. The truth is, you should be at home, period. The shelter-in-place went into effect way back when.”
Reeves’ order gave all law enforcement officers, whether it is a state trooper or the sheriff’s department, the right to enforce the order. Only Jonestown police chief Rico Smith can enforce a city ordinance.
“At first, it was just ordinances towns passed,” Bee said. “Us working for the Sheriff’s department, we can’t enforce ordinances in town. A lot of people don’t know that, but we can’t enforce ordinances. That would be up to Chief Smith. But if he called and asked us to help him or the town called and asked us to help, then we could come and help enforce the ordinance.”
Bee said he and Smith would come up with a plan to help keep Jonestown safe. He added there could be $500 fines for being out after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. if it is not for an essential purpose. He said a church pastor could be fined if there are more than 10 individuals in the congregation or a business has more than 10 customers inside.
“After 5, it’s going to be hard to say, ‘I’m going to get some medicine’ because the pharmacy’s going to be closed,” Bee said. “It’s going to be hard to say, ‘I’m going to get some food’ because a lot of the food places are going to be closed at that time.”
Bee promised the COVID-19 would get much worse and encouraged citizens to take it seriously.
“I sit out in my car and I just watch that store,” said Bee about a store across the street from city hall. “I watched the people that were in the back come out and peep out and go back in.
“I’m really just watching, trying to see what people are doing, who is walking in and walking out.
“There were more than 10 people in there. Me being the person I am, I didn’t go over there.”
Bee said he let the individual running the store know what was going on.
“I told him, ‘If we come back tomorrow, I’m going to be looking at you saying I told you,’” Bee said. “We’ve got to enforce this thing.”
Bee said he saw Jonestown residents passing cigars and cigarettes on the street.
“They’re still not understanding the importance of what’s going on,” Bee said. “Just because you’re young doesn’t mean it’s going to get you.”
Bee said the virus may not kill younger citizens of Jonestown, but it could kill older family members.
“I promise you, after today, we’re going to clean this,” said Bee Monday afternoon.
“I can tell you this, tomorrow, you all won’t see this on the street. I can guarantee this right here.”
Bee encouraged citizens to encourage others to follow orders and practice social distancing.
“I wear a uniform, but you all can police people better than I can because they know you all better than they know me,” Bee said.
Bee mentioned that riding four-wheelers are not allowed and Alderwoman Brenda D. Green expressed concerns.
“When you approach these people riding a four-wheeler, you get cussed out,” Green said. “You get talked about.”
Bee said if someone gets stopped riding a four-wheeler, it would be towed.
Lester said the playgrounds and night clubs in Jonestown are currently closed. The only business, he said, that voluntarily temporarily closed was Carters Mini Market on Elethia Street. He made the Timothy Burrel Multi-Purpose Building available for all law enforcement with drinks and coffee.
Alderman Unta Wiley said he could have a TV donated the multi-purpose building. The council voted to purchase a TV for the building if Wiley was unable to get one.
Lester also encouraged everyone to be careful.
“Some people are taking this for a joke,” he said. Some people don’t think we’re going to do anything to them. Somebody’s going to have to be the scapegoat. Somebody’s going to have to be the first.
“If we get three or four cases in this town, it’s going to be trouble.”