Ex-Mississippi cops plead guilty to racial assault

JACKSON, Ms. (AP) – Six former white Mississippi police officers who dubbed themselves the “Goon Squad” have pleaded guilty to a racial assault on two black men who were ill-treated during a home search in which an officer shot a man in the mouth, they say federal prosecutors.

The civil rights violation charges were quashed Thursday when the officers — five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and a former Richland police officer — appeared in federal court and pleaded guilty.

The charge comes after that an investigation by the Associated Press That linked lawmakers involved in the episode to at least four violent encounters with black men since 2019, which have resulted in two deaths and another with permanent injuries.

Court documents show that officers entered the home on January 24 without a warrant, then handcuffed them and used a stun gun on the two men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker.

The officers attacked her with a sex object, beat them and used their electric batons repeatedly for about 90 minutes. The incident culminated in a police officer putting a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and firing, cutting his tongue, breaking his jaw and ejecting from his throat, court documents say.

Michael Corey Jenkins stands in front of Taylor Hill Church on March 18, 2023 in Braxton, Mississippi.
Michael Corey Jenkins stands in front of Taylor Hill Church on March 18, 2023 in Braxton, Mississippi.

The officers did not provide him with medical care, instead discussing a “fake cover story to cover up their wrongdoing” and the location and tampering of evidence, the documents say.

Officers went to the Braxton home because a white neighbor had complained that black people were staying with the white woman who owned the home, court documents say. Court documents show that officers used racial slurs against the two men during the raid.

The victims are only identified by their initials in the documents, but Jenkins and Parker have publicly discussed the incident. They filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County in June, seeking $400 million in damages.

Court documents said officers nicknamed themselves the “Goon Squad” because “they were willing to use excessive force and not report it.”

The defendants in the case are former Rankin County Sheriff’s Department employees Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland Police Officer Joshua Hartfield.

The documents identified Elward as the person who shot Jenkins and Opdyke and Dedmon as those who attacked the two men with the sex object.

The Justice Department launched this in February civil rights investigation into the allegations made by Jenkins and Parker.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced on June 27 that all five officers were involved in the January 24 episode was fired or resigned. Hartfield was later revealed to be the sixth police officer in the raid. Hartfield was off duty when he took part in the raid and was also fired.

The officers were charged based on a so-called criminal complaint filed in federal court. This is a document that describes the basis for bringing criminal offenses against an accused. Unlike an indictment, criminal intelligence does not require the approval of a grand jury.

Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Follow him below @mikergoldberg.

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