Home U.S. News 6 Ex-Officers Plead Guilty to State Charges in Torture of Two Black Men

6 Ex-Officers Plead Guilty to State Charges in Torture of Two Black Men

6 Ex-Officers Plead Guilty to State Charges in Torture of Two Black Men

Six white former law enforcement officers pleaded guilty in Mississippi on Monday to state charges tied to a home raid they conducted in which prosecutors said they beat and tortured two Black men.

The guilty pleas came less than two weeks after the former officers pleaded guilty to federal civil rights offenses stemming from the raid on Jan. 24, in which prosecutors said one of the victims was shot in the mouth, and the other had a sex toy forced into his mouth.

After the assault, the officers tried to cover up the attack by destroying evidence and planting a gun at the scene, prosecutors said.

“Today, a strong message has been sent: Abuse of power will not be tolerated in Mississippi,” Lynn Fitch, the Mississippi attorney general, said in a statement on Monday. She thanked state and federal officials for their help in delivering “justice for the two victims of this brutal attack.”

In state court in Brandon, Miss., the former officers pleaded guilty to offenses that included home invasion, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to hinder a prosecution, according to court documents. One of the former officers, Hunter Elward, pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault for shooting one of the Black men.

State prosecutors recommended a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for Mr. Elward, and minimum sentences ranging from five to 10 years for the other defendants.

Prosecutors said the officers could serve their state sentences concurrently with their federal sentences, which are likely to be more severe. The former officers face varying sentences for the federal civil rights violations, but some could receive life in prison when they are sentenced in November, prosecutors said.

The two Black men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, filed a federal lawsuit in June against the six officers, accusing them of torturing and abusing them in a racially motivated attack for nearly two hours during a home raid in January.

Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker were staying at a ranch-style home in Braxton, Miss., that was owned by a longtime friend of Mr. Parker’s, federal prosecutors said. On Jan. 24, a neighbor notified Brett McAlpin, a Rankin County sheriff’s deputy, that “several” Black men were staying on the property and behaving suspiciously.

Without a warrant, Mr. McAlpin, 52, raided the home that night with five other law enforcement officers: Mr. Elward, 31; Christian Dedmon, 28; Jeffrey Middleton, 46; and Daniel Opdyke, 27, all of whom were Rankin County sheriff’s deputies at the time; and Joshua Hartfield, 31, who was a police officer in Richland, Miss. Richland is a city near Jackson, Mississippi’s state capital.

Three of the former officers — Mr. Middleton, Mr. Elward and Mr. Opdyke — called themselves members of “the goon squad,” according to a federal complaint, because of their “willingness to use excessive force and not to report it.”

After barging into the house, the officers found Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker and handcuffed them, according to a federal complaint. They shocked them with stun guns, used racial slurs, beat them with kitchen tools and a metal sword, and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup onto their faces, the complaint states.

At one point, Mr. Elward put an unloaded gun into Mr. Jenkins’s mouth and pulled the trigger, in what prosecutors described as a “mock execution” attempt. Mr. Elward then racked the slide, intending to “dry-fire” the gun a second time, the complaint states. But when he pulled the trigger again, a bullet went through Mr. Jenkins’s neck, cutting his tongue and breaking his jaw, prosecutors said.

At another point, Mr. Opdyke attached a sex toy to the end of a BB gun and shoved it into Mr. Parker’s mouth and also tried to force it into Mr. Jenkins’s mouth, the complaint said.

The officers handcuffed Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker and repeatedly shocked them with stun guns, the complaint states. Mr. Parker was kicked in the ribs. Mr. Dedmon “demanded to know where the drugs were” and fired a shot into the back of the house, the complaint states. Mr. Parker replied that there were no drugs.

After the assault, prosecutors said, the officers tried to cover up the attack. They planted a gun on Mr. Jenkins, submitted fake drug evidence to a crime lab, and destroyed surveillance videos, shell casings and Taser cartridges, the Justice Department said.

The Rankin County Sheriff’s Office said in June that the five deputies had resigned or been fired. The Richland Police Department said in a Facebook post in July that Mr. Hartfield had resigned. The Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The six officers pleaded guilty to federal offenses on Aug. 3 that included civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence and obstruction of justice. That same day, Ms. Fitch, the Mississippi attorney general, announced state charges against the officers that included similar offenses related to obstruction of justice, as well as home invasion and aggravated assault.

Jeff Reynolds, a lawyer for Mr. Opdyke, said on Monday that his client had taken responsibility for his actions.

“He admits he was wrong for his part in the horrific harms inflicted upon Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker, the victims, that night last January and is prepared to face the consequences of his actions,” Mr. Reynolds said in an email.

Lawyers for the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Malik Shabazz, a lawyer for Mr. Parker and Mr. Jenkins, said in an email that the guilty pleas on Monday were “historic.”

They represented, he said, “the first time in Mississippi history that a White law enforcement officer has ever been held criminally accountable for police misconduct against a Black person.”

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