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6 former Miss. officers sentenced in state court for repeated assualts of 2 men

The state sentences were shorter than the mens’ federal sentences of 10 to 40 years, but exceeded the state’s recommended maximum; they will be served concurrently with the federal sentences

Mississippi Deputies Sentencing

FILE - This combination of photos shows, from top left, former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield appearing at the Rankin County Circuit Court in Brandon, Miss., Aug. 14, 2023. Two Black men who were tortured for hours by the six Mississippi law enforcement officers in 2023 called Monday, March 18, 2024, for a federal judge to impose the strictest possible penalties at their sentencings this week. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

By Michael Goldberg
Associated Press/Report for America

BRANDON, Miss. — Already sentenced to federal prison, six former Mississippi law enforcement officers who pleaded guilty to a long list of state and federal charges for repeatedly assaulting two men were sentenced Wednesday in state court.

The six white former Mississippi law enforcement officers who assaulted Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker in January 2023 had already been sentenced to federal prison terms ranging from about 10 to 40 years. In March, U.S. District Judge Tom Lee called their actions “egregious and despicable” as he gave sentences near the top of the federal guidelines to five of the six men.

Rankin County Circuit Judge Steve Ratcliff on Wednesday gave the men yearslong state sentences that were shorter than the amount of time in federal prison that they had already received, but longer than what state prosecutors had recommended. Time served for the state convictions will run concurrently, or at the same time, as the federal sentences, and the men will serve their time in federal penitentiaries.

The case drew outrage from top law enforcement officials in the country, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said the officers committed a “heinous attack on citizens they had sworn an oath to protect.”

The first defendant to be sentenced Wednesday was Brett McAlpin, the fourth highest-ranking officer in the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. McAlpin had previously been sentenced by a federal judge to about 27 years of federal imprisonment. He was sentenced in state court Wednesday to 15 years on one charge and five years on another.

The defendants include five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies — McAlpin, 53; Hunter Elward, 31; Christian Dedmon, 29; Jeffrey Middleton, 46; and Daniel Opdyke, 28 — and a former police officer from the city of Richland, Joshua Hartfield, 32, who was off duty during the assault.

All six of the former officers pleaded guilty to state charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. Dedmon and Elward, who kicked in a door, also admitted to home invasion.

The former lawmen admitted to breaking into a home without a warrant and assaulting Jenkins and Parker with beatings, repeated uses of stun guns and assaults with a sex toy before one of the victims was shot in the mouth.

The incident began on Jan. 24, 2023, with a racist call for extrajudicial violence, according to federal prosecutors.

A person phoned Rankin County Deputy Brett McAlpin and complained that two Black men were staying with a white woman at a house in Braxton, Mississippi. McAlpin told Christian Dedmon, who texted a group of deputies who called themselves “The Goon Squad.”

Once inside, they handcuffed Jenkins and his friend Parker and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup over their faces while mocking them with racial slurs. They forced them to strip naked and shower together to conceal the mess. They mocked the victims with racial slurs and assaulted them with sex objects.

In a mock execution gone awry, Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth, lacerating his tongue and breaking his jaw. The officers devised a coverup and agreed to plant drugs on Jenkins and Parker. False charges stood against the men for months.

McAlpin and Middleton, the oldest in the group, threatened to kill other officers if they spoke up, prosecutors said. Opdyke was the first to admit what they did, according to Jeff Reynolds, his attorney. Opdyke showed investigators a WhatsApp text thread where the officers discussed their plan, Reynolds said.

The only defendant who didn’t receive a federal prison term at the top of the sentencing guidelines was Hartfield, who did not work in a sheriff’s department with the others and was not a member of the “Goon Squad.”


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 report on undercovered issues. Follow him at @mikergoldberg.