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Rankin Deputy Who Shot, Tortured Black Men Gets 20-Year Sentence

JACKSON, Miss.—Minutes before receiving a 20-year federal prison sentence for his role in the hours-long torture and sexual assault of two Black men last year, former Rankin County, Miss., sheriff’s deputy Hunter Elward asked the judge for permission to speak directly to his victims.

“I’ve fought hard with myself ever since that night. I hate that I got involved with this,” Elward said, facing the victims and their families. “I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. I accept all responsibility.”

In the midst of Elward’s statements, Eddie Terrell Parker, who the deputy and five other officers tortured along with his friend Michael Jenkins during an illegal raid at a home in Braxton, Miss., in January 2023, stood up.

“We forgive you, man,” Parker said. Jenkins, who Elward shot in the mouth during the 2023 raid, remained seated. Elward hesitated for a moment before speaking again.

“Huh?” Elward said. Parker repeated himself: “We forgive you.” Then, he sat back down next to his loved ones.

Elward lowered his head and raised his shackled hands up to his face, wiping away tears.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Judge Tom Lee then sentenced Elward to 241 months in prison. He was one of the six former Rankin County, Miss., law-enforcement officers who called themselves the “goon squad.”

A judge sentenced former Rankin County Sheriff’s Deputy Hunter Elward (pictured) to serve 241 months in prison for the torture of Eddie Terrell Parker and Michael Jenkins. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Before the sentencing, prosecuting attorney Erin Chalk also accused Elward of “failing to intervene” during other incidents of brutality in Rankin County, including during the December 2022 physical and sexual assault of Alan Schmidt after officers pulled the man, a white Rankin County resident, over for an expired tag. Chalk read a statement from Schmidt before Elward’s sentencing.

“I pray for these officers’ souls to be healed of the evil within,” Schmidt’s statement read. “I pray for anyone who’s crossed paths with the goon squad.” Christian Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke and Hunter Elward all pleaded guilty to charges in Schmidt’s case last year.


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