6 former Mississippi police officers sentenced on state charges in torture of Black men

Written by on April 10, 2024


(BRANDON, Miss.) — Six former Mississippi law enforcement officers were sentenced to decades in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to state charges related to the racially motivated torture, sexual assault and shooting of two Black men in January 2023 and their subsequent actions to cover up their crimes.

The group of officers, all white, includes five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies — Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke — as well as former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. The sheriff’s deputies had dubbed themselves the “Goon Squad” for their willingness to use excessive force, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Finch, the six former officers pleaded guilty in a Rankin County Circuit Court on Aug. 14, 2023, to aggravated assault, home invasion, obstruction of justice/hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice.

McAlpin, Middleton and Opdyke were each sentenced Wednesday to 15 years, according to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, while Elward and Dedmon were sentenced to 20 years and Hartfield to 10 years.

The judge did not follow the recommendation of prosecutors, giving each of the defendants longer sentences than what was recommended by the state, according to Jackson ABC affiliate WAPT.

In their guilty pleas, the six former officers admitted to breaking into a home where Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker were residing without a warrant after a white neighbor reported that the men were staying with a white woman and alleged “suspicious” activity. They then proceeded to arrest Jenkins and Parker “without probable cause” that they committed any crimes, according to the DOJ.

During the incident, the officers beat Jenkins and Parker, mocked them with racial slurs, sexually assaulted them with a sex toy, forced them to strip naked and shower together and shocked them with Tasers for roughly 90 minutes while handcuffed, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. Jenkins was also shot in the mouth by Elward, per the DOJ.

Parker, accompanied by his attorneys and local NAACP leaders, spoke to reporters outside the courtroom after the sentencing on Wednesday morning and thanked those who supported the victims.

“Ya’ll gave us the strength. I appreciate all of ya’ll. Today, Rankin County made a believer out of me, made a believer out of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people,” Parker said. “So I’m just thankful now that I’m here to see it. And I’m glad, you know, Michael is here to see it with me.”

“I’m appreciative of my lawyers fighting for us … all our family man, they’ve been riding with us. It’s been, it’s been up and down and up and down. It’s still up and down,” he added. “Still a roller coaster man, we’re gonna go ride this thing out.”

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement on Wednesday following the sentencing that the officers “violated the trust of all the citizens they swore to protect.”

“These former officers also violated the trust of the other men and women who honorably wear the uniform – every one of whom will feel the repercussions of the mistrust they sowed between law enforcement and the people. These criminal acts make a difficult job even harder and far more dangerous. And it is left to us all to commit ourselves to repairing that damage,” Fitch added.

The state sentencing comes after all six officers pleaded guilty to 16 felony charges related to this case in federal court last August and received federal prison sentences ranging from 10 to 40 years in March.

They will serve the federal and the state sentences concurrently.

“The depravity of the crimes committed by these defendants cannot be overstated, and they will now spend between 10 and 40 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn to protect,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on March 21.

“Officers who violate constitutional rights will be held accountable by the Justice Department for their crimes that harm individual victims and betray the trust of entire communities,” he added.

Following the incident, the two victims faced false charges for months, according to the DOJ, stemming from the officers’ plan to cover up their actions by tampering with and planting evidence, including drugs and a gun.

Attorneys for Jenkins and Parker, along with NAACP leaders, continued to call for the resignation of Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey when they spoke out after the sentencing on Wednesday.

“Bryan Bailey is ultimately responsible for all of the actions of the Goon Squad because they — he — should have been doing his job. He should have been monitoring his department,” Malik Shabazz, the lead attorney representing the victims, said.

ABC News has reached out to Bailey for comment.

Following the federal sentencing last month, Bailey said in a statement to WAPT that “Violations of established rules and regulations will not be tolerated by this department, and anyone who violates the law will be brought to justice.”

“As the duly elected and acting Sheriff of Rankin County, I will remain committed to the betterment of this county and this sheriff’s department moving forward,” he added. “Together with the honest, hard-working men and women currently with this department, we will strive daily to make this community a safer and more secure place to live for everyone.”

The Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident in February 2023, along with the FBI, amid outrage from the community and as attorneys for Jenkins and Parker filed a notice of claim for a $400 million federal lawsuit.

When asked about the status of the lawsuit, Shabazz told ABC News in March that the lawsuit is still in court and they are “fighting.”

In an October 2023 response to the complaint obtained by ABC News, the officers denied the allegations alleged in the lawsuit.

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