6 former Mississippi law officers to be sentenced for torture of 2 Black men

Six former Mississippi law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty to a long list of state and federal charges for torturing two Black men will be sentenced by a federal judge starting Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee will sentence two defendants each day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after twice delaying the proceedings. Each faces the potential of decades behind bars.

The former law officers admitted in August to subjecting Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker to numerous acts of racially motivated, violent torture. In a January 2023 episode, the group of six burst into a Rankin County home without a warrant and assaulted Jenkins and Parker with stun guns, a sex toy and other objects.

The terror began on Jan. 24, 2023, with a racist call for extrajudicial violence.

A white person phoned Rankin County Deputy Brett McAlpin and complained that two Black men were staying with a white woman at a house in Braxton, Mississippi. McAlpin told Deputy Christian Dedmon, who texted a group of white deputies so willing to use excessive force they called themselves “The Goon Squad.”

Once inside, they handcuffed Jenkins and Parker and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup over their faces. They forced them to strip naked and shower together to conceal the mess. They mocked the victims with racial slurs and shocked them with stun guns.

After a mock execution went awry when Jenkins was shot in the mouth, they devised a coverup that included planting drugs and a gun. False charges stood against Jenkins and Parker for months.

Ahead of sentencing, Jenkins and Parker called for the “stiffest of sentences” at a news conference Monday.

“It’s been very hard for me, for us,” Jenkins said. “We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”

Jenkins suffered a lacerated tongue and broken jaw. He still has trouble speaking and eating.

Malik Shabazz, an attorney representing both men, said the result of the sentencing hearings could have national implications.

“Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker continue to suffer emotionally and physically since this horrific and bloody attack by Rankin County deputies,” Shabazz said. “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.”

Months before federal prosecutors announced charges in August 2023, an investigation by The Associated Press linked some of the deputies to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries.

The officers charged include McAlpin, Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department and Joshua Hartfield, a Richland police officer. 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.

Most of their lawyers did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment Monday. Jason Kirschberg, representing Opdyke, said: “Daniel has accepted responsibility for his actions, and his failures to act. … He has admitted he was wrong and feels deep remorse for the pain he caused the victims.”

On the federal charges, Dedmon and Elward each face a maximum sentence of 120 years plus life in prison and $2.75 million in fines. Hartfield faces a possible sentence of 80 years and $1.5 million, McAlpin faces 90 years and $1.75 million, Middleton faces 80 years and $1.5 million, and Opdyke could be sentenced to 100 years with a $2 million fine.

The former officers agreed to prosecutor-recommended sentences ranging from five to 30 years in state court, but time served for separate convictions at the state level will run concurrently with the potentially longer federal sentences.

The majority-white Rankin County is just east of the state capital, Jackson, home to one of the highest percentages of Black residents of any major U.S. city.

The officers warned Jenkins and Parker to “stay out of Rankin County and go back to Jackson or ‘their side’ of the Pearl River,” court documents say, referencing an area with higher concentrations of Black residents.

In the gruesome crimes committed by men tasked with enforcing the law, federal prosecutors saw echoes of Mississippi’s dark history, including the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers after a deputy handed them off to the Ku Klux Klan.

For months, Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, whose deputies committed the crimes, said little about the episode. After the officers pleaded guilty in August, Bailey said the officers had gone rogue and promised to change the department. Jenkins and Parker have called for his resignation, and they have filed a $400 million civil lawsuit against the department.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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