Ex-Mississippi police officer sentenced to 20 years for torture of two Black men

Ex-Mississippi police officer sentenced to 20 years for torture of two Black men

Two former Mississippi police officers were sentenced to prison for the torture of two Black men.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee sentenced former sheriff’s deputy Hunter Elward on Tuesday to 20 years in prison and Jeffrey Middleton, a former RCSO Lieutenant, to 17.5 years in prison. They are the first of six former officers to be sentenced for the racially motivated torture of Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker.

Elward, along with fellow Rankin County deputies Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield, illegally entered Jenkins’s and Parker’s home on Jan. 24, 2023, after a white person called McAlpin about two Black men staying with a white woman at a house in Braxton, Miss.

McAlpin told Dedmon, who rallied the other men. The group previously labelled themselves as “The Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force, according to court documents.

Once inside Jenkins and Parker’s home, the officers told the men to “stay out of Rankin County and go back to Jackson or ‘their side’ of the Pearl River,” according to records.

The officers proceeded to handcuff, kick, waterboard and use a Taser on the two men and attempted to sexually assault them, according to the lawsuit. During the torture, Jenkins and Parker allege the officers repeatedly hurled racial slurs at them.

The torture allegedly lasted nearly two hours and ended when, Elward admitted, he put a gun in Jenkins’s mouth and shot him in a “mock execution” that went awry. Jenkins’s injuries included a lacerated tongue and broken jaw. He still has trouble speaking and eating.

After the torture, the officers then devised a cover-up by planting drugs and a gun at the scene, according to court documents. Jenkins and Parker faced false charges for several months.

Federal prosecutors announced charges against the officers in August, and they pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy against rights, obstructions of justice, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm under a crime of violence and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

“These defendants will spend 20 years and 17.5 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn an oath to protect,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

“These defendants kicked in the door of a home where two Black men were residing, handcuffed and arrested them without probable cause, called them racial slurs, and punched, kicked, tased, and assaulted them. After one of the defendants fired his gun in the mouth of one of the victims, breaking his jaw, the defendants gathered outside to come up with a cover story as the victim lay bleeding on the floor. The Justice Department will hold accountable officers who violate constitutional rights, and in so doing, betray the public trust.”

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Middleton will be sentenced Tuesday afternoon, while Dedmon and Opdyke will be sentenced Wednesday. Hartfield and McAlpin will face sentencing Thursday.

Dedmon will face a maximum sentence of 120 years plus life in prison and $2.75 million in fines, according to The Associated Press. Hartfield faces a sentence of 80 years and $1.5 million in fines, while McAlpin faces 90 years and $1.75 million. Middleton faces 80 years and $1.5 million in fines, and Opdyke faces 100 years and a $2 million fine.

At a press conference Monday, Jenkins and Parker called for the “stiffest of sentences” for the former officers.

“Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker continue to suffer emotionally and physically since this horrific and bloody attack by Rankin County deputies,” said Malik Shabazz, an attorney representing both men. “A message must be sent to police in Mississippi and all over America, that level of criminal conduct will be met with the harshest of consequences.”

Jenkins and Parker have also called for the resignation of Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey and have filed a $400 million civil lawsuit against the department.

Story updated at 7:47 p.m.

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