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6 former Mississippi police officers sentenced on state charges in torture of Black men

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(BRANDON, Miss.) — Six former white Mississippi law enforcement officers were sentenced to decades in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to state charges related to the racially motivated torture, sexual assault and shooting of two Black men in January 2023 and their subsequent actions to cover up their crimes.

The group of officers includes five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies — Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke — as well as former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. The sheriff’s deputies had dubbed themselves the “Goon Squad” for their willingness to use excessive force, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

McAlpin, Middleton and Opdyke were each sentenced Wednesday to 15 years for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution, according to Jackson ABC affiliate WAPT. Hartfield was sentenced to 10 years for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy to hinder prosecution.

Dedmon was sentenced to 20 years for burglary and five years for conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution, and Elward was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault, 20 years for burglary and five years for conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution, per WAPT.

According to the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Finch, the six former officers pleaded guilty in a Rankin County Circuit Court on Aug. 14, 2023, to aggravated assault, home invasion, obstruction of justice/hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice.

“The State Sentencing on Wednesday in Rankin County will be a test to see if the prosecutors and the Judge Rankin County will hold the Goon Squad accountable like they were in federal court,” attorney Malik Shabazz, who represents the two victims Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, said in a statement Monday. “The state criminal sentencing is important because historically, the state of Mississippi has lagged behind or ignored racial crimes and police brutality against Blacks, and the Department of Justice has had to lead the way. The nation expects a change on Wednesday.”

The state sentencing comes after all six officers pleaded guilty to 16 felony charges related to this case in federal court last August and received federal prison sentences ranging from 10 to 40 years in March.

They will serve the federal and the state sentences concurrently.

“The depravity of the crimes committed by these defendants cannot be overstated, and they will now spend between 10 and 40 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn to protect,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on March 21.

“Officers who violate constitutional rights will be held accountable by the Justice Department for their crimes that harm individual victims and betray the trust of entire communities,” he added.

In their guilty pleas, the six former officers admitted to breaking into a home where Jenkins and Parker were residing without a warrant after a white neighbor reported that the men were staying with a white woman and alleged “suspicious” activity. They then proceeded to arrest Jenkins and Parker “without probable cause” that they committed any crimes, according to the DOJ.

During the incident, the officers beat Jenkins and Parker, mocked them with racial slurs, sexually assaulted them with a sex toy, forced them to strip naked and shower together and shocked them with Tasers for roughly 90 minutes while handcuffed, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. Jenkins was also shot in the mouth by Elward, per the DOJ.

Following the incident, the two victims faced false charges for months, according to the DOJ, stemming from the officers’ plan to cover up their actions by tampering with and planting evidence, including drugs and a gun.

The Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident in February 2023, along with the FBI, amid outrage from the community and as attorneys for Jenkins and Parker filed a notice of claim for a $400 million federal lawsuit.

When asked about the status of the lawsuit, Shabazz told ABC News in March that the lawsuit is still in court and they are “fighting.”

In an October 2023 response to the complaint obtained by ABC News, the officers denied the allegations alleged in the lawsuit.
 

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