By: Suraj Shah Edited by: Shane Masterson September 28, 2023
On August 3, former Mississippi police officers Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke, and deputy Joshua Hartfield pleaded guilty to all charges presented by the state pertaining to the torture they inflicted upon two black men named Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. Five of these officers were deputies working at the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office, and the other officer was formerly employed at the Richland Police Department. Each officer was charged with conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. Dedmon, one of the former deputies, was charged with home invasion as well, and Elward was charged with home invasion and aggravated assault. In addition, the four other officers were each charged with first-degree obstruction of justice.
In January, some of the officers had called themselves the “Goon Squad,” kicking down the door of a home in Braxton, Mississippi. The cops tortured the black men living there for hours. The abuse began when Dedmon messaged three other officers, Elward, Middleton, and Opdyke to address a complaint received by McAlpin. McAlpin’s white neighbor reported that he saw black men acting suspicious while staying at a white woman’s home. Dedmon had told the officers that, as long as there were no surveillance cameras on the property, they could kick down the door and enter without a warrant; “no bad mug shots,” he stated, indicating that the officers could exert excessive force in areas of the body not captured by a mug shot.
Once the officers broke in, the men were tased several times, called racial epithets, and had milk, alcohol, and chocolate syrup poured in their mouths. Dedmon poured grease on Parker’s head while Elward threw eggs at the victims. Elward then forced Jenkins to lay on his knees and fired a bullet into his mouth. When the bullet did not release, Elward racked the slide and fired again. This time the bullet tore Jenkins’ tongue, broke his jaw, and exited through his neck.
Next, the officers tried to cover this horrific incident up by taking a BB gun from Middleton’s cop car and planting it along with a shell casing. Hartfield threw the men’s soiled clothes in the woods and tossed the hard drive of the property’s surveillance system into a creek.
Several high-profile figures have commented on the incident. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, “The defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims, egregiously violated the civil rights of citizens who they were supposed to protect, and shamefully betrayed the oath they swore as law enforcement officers.” Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell stated that the incidents left 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.”
Rankin County NAACP President Angela English called for the resignation of Bryan Bailer, the Rankin County sheriff. “NAACP and the community feel like he has been negligent in his duties,” she explained, and Bailey announced that the officers had been fired in June but did not release their names nor how many were terminated. He is running for an unchallenged reelection in November.
Many have claimed that this incident reflects a broader trend of systemic racism and police brutality toward people of color. Others agree that this is a racist incident of police brutality but do not agree that policing as an entire system is racist. No matter the overarching opinions of this event, nearly everyone has come to the same clear conclusion that this was a dreadful occurrence. Therefore, justice must be served.