A 32-year law enforcement veteran and current Sunflower County Consolidated School District school resource officer has been arrested and charged with child molestation of a 15-year-old girl.
Officer Michael Rance, 55, of 215 Wiggins Road was arrested early Monday morning after a local municipal judge issued the warrant, according to Indianola Police Chief Edrick Hall.
During a joint press conference by the Sunflower County Sheriff's Department and the Indianola Police Department this week, the agencies made clear this incident did not happen on school grounds.
Rance is reportedly a long-time friend of the victim’s family and is accused of assaulting the girl several times over the course of one night. Some of the alleged incidents reportedly took place after the child was allowed to accompany Rance to Walmart to make purchases.
The 15-year-old said the initial assault happened after he took her back to his house to put the items away and continued subsequent to their return to the girl’s home.
Based on information released by Hall, the mother reported the assault to police on July 29 around 1:40 a.m. Hall said the mother was able to produce evidence that necessitated a warrant being issued for Rance’s arrest for child molestation.
In a joint press conference held in the lobby of the Sunflower County Courthouse on Monday morning, Hall stated. “It should be stressed that Mr. Rance has only been charged and is not convicted of any crime and has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a court of law.”
Sunflower County Sheriff James Haywood and Sunflower County Consolidated School District Chief of Police Bo Hibbler joined Hall and according to them, Rance has worked for several departments throughout his 32-year history.
He formerly worked as an officer with the Indianola Police Department but is currently employed as a school resource officer with the SCCSD and as a night deputy with the Sunflower County Sheriff’s department.
Hall said Rance is being held at an undisclosed Delta facility. Haywood explained that is for Rance’s safety.
“When a law enforcement officer is taken into custody and placed in a facility there is always a risk that someone might want to seek revenge,” Haywood said.
Haywood added that he is deeply saddened by the incident, but noted, “We take anything with law enforcement and the public trust really seriously. It’s a shame that this has happened, but we in law enforcement. We must be transparent in what we are doing.”
Haywood went on to say, “We have the public trust, so we must maintain that public trust by doing our duties by serving our oaths.”
The sheriff said all law enforcement agencies should hold their people accountable and do what is right.
“I hope that every agency in Sunflower County will follow those guidelines,” he said.
Hibbler too expressed his grief regarding the allegations and subsequent arrest but added, “We shall move forward and we’re praying that this was a one isolated incident and nothing else has occurred.”
Speaking on behalf of the district, Hibbler said he wanted the parents to rest assured that their children are protected and the district officials would continue to do their job.
Rance has reportedly been employed with the district for the past three to four years.
Police officials expressed their appreciation to the sheriff’s department for its help and Haywood too thanked the Indianola Police Department for advising him of the situation before the arrest.
“It showed true professionalism, by alerting me to what was going on and kept me informed on what was going on,” Haywood said. “We just gotta move forward from this, we have to.”