Michael Corey Jenkins

Micheal Corey Jenkins recovers in a hospital after being tortured and shot in the mouth by Rankin County, Mississippi sheriff's deputies on January 24, 2023.

(Photo: U.S. District Court)

6 Mississippi 'Goon Squad' Deputies Plead Guilty to Torturing Black Men

"Anyone surprised by this, at this point, can only be a willful denier of what Black people have said—and continue to say—about the broken culture of policing in America."

Six former Mississippi sheriff's deputies from a self-described "Goon Squad" pleaded guilty Thursday to subjecting two Black men to racialized torture and shooting one of the victims in the mouth after a neighbor called in a complaint about the men staying in the home of a white woman.

Former Rankin County Sheriff's Office (RCSO) Deputies Brett Morris McAlpin, Jeffrey Arwood Middleton, Christian Lee Dedmon, Hunter Thomas Elward, Daniel Ready Opdyke, and Joshua Allen Hartfield pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the January 24 torture of 32-year-old Michael Corey Jenkins and 35-year-old Eddie Terrell Parker.

On January 24, the white deputies—who had no warrant—broke down the door of the Braxton home where Parker was living, handcuffing and repeatedly tasing the victims before sexually assaulting them, calling them racist names while threatening to kill them, and shooting Jenkins in the mouth, shattering his jaw and causing permanent injuries to his tongue and neck.

"These guilty pleas are historic for justice against rogue police torture in Rankin County and all over America," Malik Shabazz, an attorney representing Jenkins and Parker, said in a statement. "Today is truly historic for Mississippi and for civil and human rights in America."

Trent Walker, another attorney for the two men, toldMississippi Today that his clients "feel they're getting justice. They feel vindicated."

"There were a lot of naysayers," Walker added. "This proves there is justice in Mississippi, even in Rankin County with its long history of police violence."

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey—who in June said the six deputies had resigned or been terminated—called the case "the most horrible incident of police brutality I've learned of over my whole career, and I'm ashamed it happened at this department."

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a probe into the case in February after an Associated Press investigation linked the Rankin County deputies "to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries."

According to Mississippi Today:

In 2021, Damien Cameron, a 29-year-old Black man, died after a confrontation with Rankin County deputies Elward and Luke Stickman. Cameron's mother, who filed a civil lawsuit against the department, said she witnessed the officers kneel on Cameron's neck and back, while Cameron told them he could not breathe for over 10 minutes.

A grand jury chose not to indict the officers for Cameron's death a year before Elward shot Jenkins. "If they would have did something then, this wouldn't have happened," said his father, Mel Jenkins.

Kristen Clarke, who heads the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, said the defendants "caused harm to the entire community who feel that they can't trust the police officers who are supposed to serve them."

U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca said the deputies "became the criminals they swore to protect us from."

"Now, they'll be treated as the criminals as they are," he added.

According to court documents, McAlpin—formerly the department's chief investigator—received a complaint from one of his neighbors in Braxton, a village of less than 200 people in neighboring Simpson County, about several Black men staying at the home of a white woman.

The neighbor—who according to court documents "observed suspicious behavior" by the men—did not know that Parker was helping to care for the woman.

McAlpin directed Dedmond, an RCSO investigator, to handle the complaint. Dedmond then contacted a group of deputies led by Middleton who called themselves the Goon Squad "because of their willingness to use excessive force and not report it."

The deputies went to the woman's home without a warrant, kicked down a door, and upon encountering Jenkins and Parker, handcuffed, arrested, and tased the men without any probable cause. Opdyke kicked Parker in the ribs while Dedmond demanded to know "where the drugs were." Dedmond drew and fired his pistol, repeating the question. Parker reiterated that there were no drugs in the house.

The deputies then dragged Jenkins and Parker into the living room and called the men racial slurs "including 'nigger,' 'monkey,' and 'boy'" while accusing them of "taking advantage of the white woman who owned the house" and warning them "to stay out of Rankin County and go back to Jackson to 'their side' of the Pearl River."

During a search of the home Opdyke found a dildo and a BB gun, mounted the sex toy on the weapon, and orally assaulted Jenkins and Parker with it. Dedmond prepared to rape Jenkins with the object but "stopped when he noticed that [he] had defecated on himself."

The deputies then forced Jenkins and Parker onto their backs on the living room floor, held them down, and "poured milk, alcohol, and chocolate syrup on their faces and into their mouths" and "cooking grease on [Parker's] head" while Elward threw eggs at the men.

Jenkins and Parker were then ordered to "strip naked and shower off to wash away evidence of abuse" before they were taken to jail. After this, the deputies beat the men with kitchen implements and a sword.

Noticing their tasers were issued by two different law enforcement agencies, the deputies decided to test the stun guns on their victims "to see which one was the most powerful." They shocked the men 17 times.

McAlpin and Middleton then stole several items in the home that caught their eye, including a military uniform and rubber bar mats. The deputies stopped stealing when they heard two gunshots in the bedroom where the other deputies were holding Jenkins and Parker.

One of the shots was fired in the home's yard by Dedmond. The other was fired by Elward, who stuck his gun in Jenkins' mouth and fired. According to a court document, "the bullet lacerated [Jenkins'] tongue, broke his jaw, and exited out his neck."

As Jenkins lay on the floor, bleeding and without medical attention, "the defendants huddled up on the rear screened-in porch and devised a false cover story" that Jenkins consented to a search that produced two bags containing methamphetamine, and that Parker fled into the home.

The deputies also falsely claimed that Parker had reached for a gun after Elward removed his handcuffs in the bedroom where he was shot in self-defense. They then planted evidence including the BB gun with which the victims were sexually assaulted and methamphetamine previously obtained from an informant.

False police reports, sworn affidavits, and charges against Jenkins and Parker followed. The deputies also gave false statements to agents of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which investigated Elward's shooting of Jenkins.

The defendants, who are scheduled for sentencing in November, face possible prison sentences ranging from 80 to 120 years and fines of between $1.5 million and $2.75 million each.

In June, Jenkins and Parker filed a $400 million federal civil rights lawsuit against Bailey and the six deputies.

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