2 more former Mississippi 'Goon Squad' deputies sentenced in torture of 2 Black men

2 more former Mississippi 'Goon Squad' deputies sentenced in torture of 2 Black men

Michael Corey Jenkins, right, follows a friend as he enters the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, for sentencing on the third of the six former Rankin County law enforcement officers who committed racially motivated, violent torture on him and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker in 2023. The six former law officers pleaded guilty to torturing them.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Michael Corey Jenkins, right, follows a friend as he enters the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, for sentencing on the third of the six former Rankin County law enforcement officers who committed racially motivated, violent torture on him and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker in 2023. The six former law officers pleaded guilty to torturing them.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi federal judge is sentencing additional former law enforcement officers to serve significant prison time in a disturbing brutality case in which the six white lawmen pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges for torturing two Black men last year.

They 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, 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 neighbor complained about them staying in a white woman’s home.

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. Lee shot Jenkins in the mouth when a mock execution went awry, and the officers also planted drugs and guns to try to coverup their actions with false charges. The white lawmen 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.

6 white ex-officers in Mississippi plead guilty to assault on 2 Black men

More details emerged during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing on how the “Goon Squad” operated. Prosecutors said it was Lt. Middleton who devised the plan to coverup 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. Michael 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.”

Dedmon also did not look at his victims when he apologized for the pain he caused.

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

MPB’s Michael McEwen reported from Jackson, Miss. and NPR’s Debbie Elliott from Orange Beach, Ala.

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