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HomeNewsCourt Sentences Two Mississippi Officers for Torture of Black Men

Court Sentences Two Mississippi Officers for Torture of Black Men

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Former Rankin County, Mississippi, sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton faced sentencing in a federal court on Tuesday. The pair, along with five former cops, pleaded guilty to 16 charges related to the torture of two Black men.

Elward pleaded guilty to the most serious charge in the indictment – discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. According to the Department of Justice, he’s looking at 241 months, approximately 20 years.

“I hate myself for it,” Elward said during the sentencing hearing, according to Jackson ABC affiliate WAPT. “I accept my responsibility.”

Middleton is facing 17.5 years or 210 months in prison for his role in the incident. The remaining four officers received their sentences during hearings on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Michael Jenkins spoke to WAPT on Tuesday afternoon after Elward stood up and apologized to him in court. “I’m glad he looked at me. I’m glad he see me,” Jenkins said. While he “feels sorry” for Elward’s family, Jenkins believes the former officer got “what he deserved.”

Eddie Parker, the second victim, told Elward that he forgave him and was “satisfied” with the sentence. Parker said about his decision to forgive Elward, “For what is given and what is done, I forgive that part, but other than that, he still did what he did, and he has to be punished. I always stand up for justice and for what’s right.”

Jenkins was not so kind. He said he does not forgive the cops because they would have kept it up if they had gone scot-free.

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Former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Elward, Middleton, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Daniel Opdyke, Joshua Hartfield, and a former Richland police officer pleaded guilty to 16 federal charges related to the torture and physical abuse of three Rankin County men in two unrelated incidents, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice on August 3, 2023.

The charges include civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice. The former officers agreed to sentences ranging from five to 30 years, as recommended by prosecutors.

According to the charging documents, the incident happened on January 24, 2023. It began when a white neighbor claimed in a complaint to McAlpin that she suspected the black men staying at a nearby property were up to no good.

McAlpin asked Dedmon, an RCSO investigator at the time, to investigate the incident. Dedmon contacted a group of shift officers to take care of it. They called themselves “The Goon Squad” because of their “willingness to use excessive force and not report it.” 

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During the incident, the officers beat Jenkins and Parker. They also sexually assaulted them with a sex toy and shocked them with Tasers for roughly 90 minutes while handcuffed. Elward also shot Jenkins in the mouth, per the DOJ.

And while Jenkins was bleeding on the floor. Rather than providing medical aid, the officers “devised a false cover story to cover up their misconduct” and went on to “plant” and “tamper with evidence” to corroborate their story.

“These defendants will spend 20 years and 17.5 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn an oath to protect,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The officers admitted that on January 24, 2023, they entered a home where Jenkins and Parker were staying in Braxton, Rankin County, Mississippi. There, they handcuffed and arrested the two men “without probable cause to believe they had committed any crime, called them racial slurs, and warned them to stay out of Rankin County.”

The two victims — Jenkins and Parker — spoke out during a press conference Monday morning about the enduring trauma of the experience. 

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“I’d like to thank everybody for supporting us and believing in us,” said Jenkins. “It’s been very hard for me this past year. I’m just looking forward to justice tomorrow. I hope they do right. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Parker said it’s been a “hard year,” but he’s glad that the day of sentencing, twice delayed before, has finally come. “Everything needs to be done right because everything was done wrong,” Parker said. “What’s done already, man, can’t be erased; it can’t be taken back. I relive this every day.”

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