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Officers plead guilty in torture and shooting of men in Rankin County

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

FILE – Activists march towards the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office in Brandon, Miss., Wednesday, July 5, 2023, calling for the termination and prosecution of Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey for running a law enforcement department that allegedly terrorizes and brutalizes minorities. Six white former law enforcement officers in Mississippi have pleaded guilty to a racist assault on Michael Corey Jenkins and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker, who are Black. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The six law enforcement officers plead guilty to all federal charges and now face additional charges from the state of Mississippi.

On Thursday, six officers accused of torturing and shooting two men in Braxton, Mississippi back on January 24, 2023, plead guilty to all 13 charges filed against them in federal court.

The charges include civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under the color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.

Since then, charges have been filed by the Attorney General of Mississippi against the six officers.

Five of the officers are from the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office and one is with the Richland Police Department. They have all been terminated from their positions and charged with aggravated assault, home invasion, obstruction of justice/hindering prosecution in the first degree, and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice/hinder prosecution.

“Without a relationship of trust between law enforcement officers and those they swear to serve and protect, our fight for justice and against crime is doomed to fail,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “This brutal attack caused more than physical harm to these two individual victims; it severed that vital trust with the people. This abuse of power will not be tolerated. The Attorney General’s Office is committed to delivering justice for these victims and for all Mississippians.”

Former Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Hunter Elward is facing the most serious charges on the state level after he was accused of discharging a firearm during the altercation. The other officers charged are Brett McAlpin, Jeffery Middleton, Christian Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke and Joshua Hartfield.

“The egregious conduct of these individuals is a dark stain on law enforcement and erodes the public’s trust in a profession that does so many great things each and every day,” said Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell. “I am grateful for the hard work of our federal counterparts, which is reflected in today’s outcome. I am also extremely confident in the process by which these cases are now investigated and prosecuted by the State of Mississippi. The work of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney General’s Office will help build public confidence that bad actors such as these will be held accountable at the state level, as well.”

The Crime

The incident took place against two black men in an area just outside of southeast Jackson. Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker filed a federal civil lawsuit after coming forward. It ultimately left one man with lacerations to his tongue and a shattered jaw after being shot in the mouth by one of the officers.

According to the lawsuit, the men claimed deputies forced their way onto the premises where they were staying without a warrant. The claim against the officers says this was done with “no reasonable suspicion or probable cause.” The officers in question then handcuffed Jenkins and Parker and began hitting and slapping them. At this time, the body-worn cameras had been turned off.

The two men were also allegedly waterboarded with the deputies “continuously pouring the liquids on their faces while both men were handcuffed… and forced on their backs,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit also indicates that racial slurs were used including the “n-word,” “monkey,” and accusations of the men “dating white women.” It is also alleged that the motivation for the beating was based on race since the two men who were assaulted were black and the officers were white.

The lawsuit cited the attempted use of a sexual device against the two men before forcing them to enter into a shower together.

The men say they did not attempt to resist or run from the deputies during the time of the incident and despite their cooperation, deputies “placed their guns to the heads of both handcuffed men and threatened to kill them.”

After being shot in the mouth, Jenkins and Parker say the officer debated disregarding his duty to render medical attention to Jenkins. When he was finally reached by emergency medical personnel, he required multiple surgeries.

Jenkins and Parker suffered permanent damage as a result of the shooting

After the Guilty Plea

Following all men filing a guilty plea on Thursday, Rankin County Sheriff Brent Bailey released a statement to the public. It reads:

Deputies of this department are sworn to protect and serve the public and uphold all federal and state laws. We have approximately 230 men and women with this department who report to work every day and perform their duties in accordance with department standards. Based on today’s arrests, five former deputies violated all such standards, their training, and my expectations of them. The badge worn by so many has been tarnished by the criminal acts of these few individuals. 

Based on the facts in their guilty pleas, all former deputies lied to me the night of the incident. We have cooperated fully with all outside investigative agencies to uncover the truth and bring justice to the victims. We have also sought assistance from outside agencies and consultants to help us with repairing the trust within our community.

I truly have tried my best to make the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office one of the top departments in Mississippi. This incident and the crimes of these individuals has been devastating not only to the victims but also to the sheriff’s office and the hundreds of men and women that work here. Ultimately, I believe we all want a safe place to live and raise our family. We all also want to have faith and trust in those who wear the sheriff’s badge. You have my sincere promise that I along with every employee at the sheriff’s office will work nonstop to obtain these goals.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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