Six white former police officers pleaded guilty Monday to state charges of torturing two Black men.
Men sworn to protect and serve huddled on the back porch of a Mississippi home as Michael Corey Jenkins lay on the ground, blood pouring from his cut tongue where one of the police officers had stuck a gun. in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
The nearly 90-minute period of panic before the shooting began late on January 24 after a white neighbor called Rankin County Deputy Brett McAlpin and complained that two Black men were living in a white woman inside the Braxton home.
McAlpin notified Deputy Christian Dedmon, who had texted a group of white deputies calling themselves “The Goon Squad,” a moniker they adopted because of their willingness to use excessive force.
“Are you all here for a mission?” asked Dedmon. They are.
Five of the former officers are from the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office – Chief Investigator Brett McAlpin, Narcotics Investigator Christian Dedmon, Lieutenant Jeffrey Middleton, Deputy Hunter Elward, and Deputy Daniel Opdyke – while one is from the Richland Police Department, Narcotics Investigator Joshua Hartfield. Some of the group called themselves the “Goon Squad,” as they were known for “using excessive force and not reporting it.”
All pleaded guilty to state charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. Each reached individual plea agreements that included prison sentences ranging from five to 30 years, according to court records obtained by The Associated Press.
The guilty pleas to the state charges came just over a week after all six men also pleaded guilty to 16 federal felonies “arising from torture and physical abuse.” abuse” by two Black men.
They will be sentenced on the federal charges in mid-November.
According to a Department of Justice release earlier this month, officers admitted to kicking in a door and entering a home owned by two Black men – Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker on January 24 – without’ y warrant.
Both men were handcuffed and arrested – without probable cause to believe they had committed any crime. Officers “called them racial slurs, and warned them to stay in Rankin County,” according to the release.
The officers reportedly “punched and kicked” Mr Jenkins and Mr Parker, “tasted them 17 times, forced them to drink liquids, and assaulted them with a dildo.”
Court records detail how they entered a home without a warrant, handcuffed Jenkins and Parker, assaulted them with a sex toy and beat Parker with a stick and a metal sword. . They poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup on their faces and then forced them to undress and shower together to hide the mess.
Then one of them put a gun to Jenkins’ mouth and fired.
As Jenkins lay bleeding, they did not provide medical aid. They know the mission is too far gone and they concoct a quick cover-up scheme that includes a fake narcotics bust, a planted gun and drugs, stolen surveillance footage and threats.
The deputies are under the watch of Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who called it the worst episode of police brutality he has seen in his career.
In addition to other torturous behavior, the former officers created a cover-up, which included making false statements and accusing two people of crimes they did not commit, but also neglected to provide medical assistance to them.
Law enforcement misconduct in the US has come under increased scrutiny, with a particular focus on how Black people are treated by the police. The 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police ignited calls for sweeping criminal justice reforms and a reexamination of race relations in America. The January beating death of Tire Nichols by five Black members of a special police squad in Memphis, Tennessee, led to an investigation into similar units across the country.
In Rankin County, the brutality visited by Jenkins and Parker was not a sloppy police operation, but an assembly of rogue officers “who tormented them all under the authority of a badge, which they disgraced,” said by US Attorney Darren LaMarca.
The county east of the state capital, Jackson, is home to one of the highest percentages of Black residents of any major US city. A towering granite-and-marble monument to a Confederate soldier stands across the street from the sheriff’s office.
Officials warned Jenkins and Parker to “stay in Rankin County and return to Jackson or ‘their side’ of the Pearl River,” court documents say, referring to an area with more high concentration of Black residents.
Kristen Clarke, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the trauma “is magnified because the wrongdoing is fueled by racial prejudice and hatred.” He discussed another dark chapter in law enforcement in Mississippi: the 1964 kidnapping and murder of three civil rights workers.
The brutal police misconduct is a reminder that “there is more to do,” Clarke said.