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6 ex-Miss. cops plead guilty to state charges in assault on 2 men during raid

All six had recently pleaded guilty in a connected federal civil rights case; each one agreed to sentences ranging from five to 30 years

By Michael Goldberg
Associated Press/Report for America

BRANDON, Miss. — Six former Mississippi officers pleaded guilty to state charges on Monday for assaulting two men during a raid. All six had recently admitted their guilt in a connected federal civil rights case.

Prosecutors say some of the officers nicknamed themselves the “Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force and cover it up, including the attack that ended with a deputy shooting one victim in the mouth.

The officers entered a house without a warrant on Jan. 24, assaulting the men with a sex toy and using stun guns and other objects to abuse them over a roughly 90-minute period, court documents show. After one victim was shot and wounded in a “mock execution” that went awry, documents say the officers conspired to plant and tamper with evidence instead of providing medical aid.

Their conspiracy unraveled months later, after one of them told the sheriff he had lied, leading to confessions from the others.

Each one agreed to sentences recommended by state prosecutors ranging from five to 30 years, although the judge isn’t bound by that. Time served for the state charges will run concurrently with federal sentences they are scheduled to receive. Each could get longer prison sentences in federal court in November.

The men include five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies — Brett McAlpin, Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke — and a police officer from the city of Richland, Joshua Hartfield.

All six pleaded guilty to state charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to hinder prosecution.

Dedmon and Elward, who kicked in a door, pleaded guilty to additional charges of home invasion. Elward also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, for shoving a gun into the mouth of one of the victims and pulling the trigger, in what authorities called a “mock execution.”

The victims — Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker — arrived together. They sat in the front row, feet away from their attackers’ families.

After the brazen acts of police violence in Rankin County came to light, some residents pointed to a police culture they said gave officers carte blanche to abuse their power.

The officers initially went to the home in Braxton because a neighbor complained people were staying with a woman who owned the house. The documents say Parker was a longtime friend of the homeowner and was helping care for her.

Officers used racist slurs against the two men during the raid and “warned them to stay out of Rankin County and go back to Jackson or ‘their side’ of the Pearl River — areas with higher concentrations of Black residents,” the documents say.

Elward shoved a gun into Jenkins’ mouth and fired, court documents say. The bullet lacerated Jenkins’ tongue and broke his jaw before exiting his neck.

Before the raid, the officers agreed to enter without a warrant if they could avoid being spotted by the home’s security cameras. They also planned to use excessive force but not to cause visible injuries to the men’s faces so there would be “no bad mugshots,” the documents say.

The deputies threw eggs on the handcuffed victims and forced them to lie on their backs while pouring milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup down their mouths. They forced the men to strip naked and shower to remove the evidence.

The officers also repeatedly electrocuted the victims with stun guns to compare whether the sheriff’s department or police department weapons were more powerful. One deputy, Middleton, offered to plant an unregistered firearm at the scene.

Court documents identified Opdyke and Dedmon as the suspects who assaulted the two men with the sex toy.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced on June 27 that five deputies involved in the episode had been fired or resigned. Hartfield was later revealed to be the sixth officer and also was fired.

Bailey on Thursday said he first learned everything that happened to Jenkins and Parker when he read unsealed court documents.

“This is the most horrible incident of police brutality I’ve learned of over my whole career, and I’m ashamed it happened at this department,” Bailey said.