Johnston leaders defend NC sheriff after comments

SMITHFIELD, N.C. Johnston County commissioners chairwoman Cookie Pope issued a statement Monday saying the board supported Sheriff Steve Bizzell and asking that critics let the incident pass.

"As children, we learned that a wound never heals as long as you continue picking at it," Pope said. "We are committed to uniting our community and we expect the forces that would like to divide our community to support our efforts to heal."

The News & Observer of Raleigh this month quoted Bizzell as saying illegal immigrants living in his county were "breeding like rabbits" and spreading a culture of drunkenness and violence.

Bizzell later apologized and said he didn't mean legal and law-abiding Hispanics.

The civil rights groups sent the letter to county commissioners on Friday saying Bizzell was influencing his employees with his views.

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