Two former Mississippi officers sentenced in federal 'Goon Squad' torture of two black men

Thursday, March 21, 2024
 – A Mississippi federal judge has sentenced two more former law enforcement officers to serve significant prison time over the brutality case in which the six white officers pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges for torturing two Black men last year.

The former officers were part of a self-styled "Goon Squad" known locally for using violent and aggressive tactics in Rankin County, a suburb of Jackson, Miss.

On Wednesday, March 20, U.S. District Judge Tom Lee sentenced former Rankin County sheriff's deputy Christian Dedmon to 40 years in federal prison, and ex-deputy Daniel Opdyke to 17.5 years for their roles in the racist attack on Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker during a no-warrant house raid.

The Black men were targeted after a neighbour complained about them staying in a white woman's home.

On Tuesday, Judge Lee sentenced former ex-deputy Hunter Elward to 20 years in prison, and former Lt. Jeffrey Middleton to 17.5 years for their actions in the January 2023 incident.

The white deputies beat, tortured, and sexually assaulted the men for hours. Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth when a mock execution went awry, and the officers also planted drugs and guns to try to cover up their actions with false charges.

The white lawmen also used stun guns and racial slurs, and told Jenkins and Parker to "go back to their side of the river," meaning the majority Black city of Jackson. Rankin County, to the east, is a largely white community.

Judge Lee called the former officers' actions "egregious and despicable" and said it justified the top of the range under sentencing guidelines. Ex-deputy Brett McAlpin and a former policeman from the town of Richland, Joshua Hartfield, are scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

Prosecutors said it was Lt. Middleton who devised the plan to cover up the raid and the accidental shooting, and that he told his fellow officers if anyone told what really happened, he had no problem having them killed.

"Let this be a warning to all police officers in the United States of America," said attorney Malik Shabazz, who represents the victims. "If you allow deputies and officers under your command to go rogue, to commit crimes, and to abuse persons you will be held equally as responsible as the shooter and the abuser."

The victims had called for the stiffest of sentences and were in court for the sentencing hearings. Eddie Parker said he still struggles with the lasting effects of that night. WhiMichael Corey Jenkins said he felt like justice was beginning to be served, and that he's desperate to put this behind him.

The shooting left Jenkins with a broken jaw and a lacerated tongue. "They did some unimaginable things to me," he said in a statement. "They tried to take my manhood from me."

He called Dedmon the worst. "Deputy Dedmon was the most aggressive, sickest and the most wicked," he said through a statement from his lawyer. Federal prosecutors described Dedmon sexually assaulting the men.

During his hearing, Elward spoke to the victims directly. "I see you every night," he said. "I can't go back and do what's right. I am sorry for what I did."

Parker replied "I forgive you."

Lt. Middleton, who did not look at the victims, apologized for tarnishing the reputations of Rankin County, law enforcement, and his family. "I will never forgive myself for failing to protect innocent victims and my family."

Opdyke cried in court. "The weight of my actions and the harm I've caused will haunt me every day," he said. "I wish I could take away your suffering."

Jenkins and Parker have filed a civil lawsuit against Rankin County and Sheriff Bryan Bailey. The NAACP and other civil rights groups have also called for Bailey to resign or be removed from office, for overseeing a "poisonous culture" of police brutality

Post a Comment