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Home CNN 2 more ex-officers will be sentenced today for torturing 2 Black men in Mississippi in ‘unspeakable crimes’

2 more ex-officers will be sentenced today for torturing 2 Black men in Mississippi in ‘unspeakable crimes’

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 20 MAR 24 10:25 ET

By Holly Yan, Emma Tucker and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

(CNN) — For almost two hours, a squad of White Mississippi law enforcement officers raided a home without a warrant, subjected two Black residents to racist vitriol, tased them after they had already been handcuffed, beat them with various objects and then shot one in the mouth – leaving him to bleed as they planted a gun on the victims and plotted their cover story, officials said.

Now, one by one, each of those former officers is paying the price for what the FBI director described as “atrocious” acts of “pure hell.”

Two of the defendants, former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Christian Dedmon and Daniel Opdyke, will be sentenced in federal court Wednesday after both pleaded guilty in connection with the January 2023 attacks against Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker.

Two other former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies, Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton, learned their fates Tuesday. Elward, who shot Jenkins in the mouth, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and gave an emotional apology to the victims in court. Middleton was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison.

The final two defendants, former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield and former Rankin County deputy Brett McAlpin, will be sentenced on Thursday.

At least three of the disgraced officers – Elward, Middleton and Opdyke – were part of a group of deputies that called themselves “The Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force and not report it, federal prosecutors said in court documents. Each of the deputies has since resigned or been fired.

All six former officers pleaded guilty in August to federal charges of conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice related to the incident.

In addition to those federal charges, the defendants also face a bevy of state charges.

“Six White law enforcement officers committed some absolutely unspeakable crimes,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday. “It’s hard to imagine a more atrocious set of civil rights violations than those carried out by these guys.”

How the torture unfolded

In January 2023, the officers went to a home in Braxton after a neighbor reported several Black men were staying at a White woman’s home and reported seeing suspicious behavior.

On the night of January 24, without a search warrant, the six law enforcement officers “kicked in the door of a home where two Black men were staying and subjected them to an hour and a half of hell,” the FBI director said.

Parker was “a long-time friend” of the White homeowner who was living at the home and helping take care of her, federal prosecutors said. Jenkins was living at the home temporarily.

Despite having no probable cause to believe either had committed a crime, the six officers “handcuffed and arrested the men, kicked and beat them, bombarded them with racial slurs, forced them to strip naked, assaulted them with a variety of objects, tased them … 17 times, and fired their guns to intimidate them,” Wray said.

“But that wasn’t enough for these guys,” the FBI director said. “One of them had the idea to stage a mock execution. So he took his weapon and secretly removed a bullet from the chamber. Then he put the barrel into one victim’s mouth and pulled the trigger, dry-firing the gun.”

“Then he did it again — but this time, the gun didn’t dry-fire. It discharged, sending a bullet into the victim’s mouth, lacerating his tongue, and breaking his jaw,” Wray said.

“Can you imagine the abject terror those two victims must have felt? I mean, who do you call when the police are the ones terrorizing you?”

While Jenkins was bleeding on the floor from the gunshot wound, the officers didn’t render aid, Wray said.

“Instead, they came up with a cover story and then took steps to corroborate it,” including planting a gun on one of the victims, he said.

Ex-cop apologizes to victims: ‘I hate myself’

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing for Elward, who shot Jenkins in the mouth, the former deputy apologized to his victims in court.

“Mr. Jenkins, I see you every day and every night. I’m so doggone sorry,” Elward said.

“There’s no telling what you’ve seen. I’m so sorry that I caused that. I hate myself for it. I hate that I gave you that. I accept all responsibility.”

Jenkins nodded. Parker stood up and replied: “We forgive you, man.”

But Jenkins told CNN after the hearing that Elward’s apology “meant nothing” to him.

Middleton, during his own sentencing, told the court he accepted responsibility for what he did.

“I made some very poor, life-changing decisions. They were morally and legally wrong,” he said while apologizing to Jenkins, Parker and their families, as well as his family and the people of Rankin County, where he had been a deputy and was the supervisor the night of the incident.

In his victim’s impact statement, read by attorney Malik Shabazz, Parker said he didn’t think Middleton was sorry.

“I’m offended that Jeffrey Middleton is not apologetic, and is trying to make light of his role in these torture sessions, and crimes,” he said. “He used a sword to hit me.”

What we know about another victim’s case

New details are emerging about another disturbing case that several of the ex-officers have also pleaded guilty to.

Dedmon, Elward and Opdyke pleaded guilty in federal court to felonies related to a separate incident in December 2022, according to the Justice Department.

On Tuesday, Elward was sentenced for a federal charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law related to the December 2022 incident. The other two former officers are expected to be sentenced this week.

The three former deputies pleaded guilty to the incident involving a person only referred to as “A.S.” in court documents.

The victim was identified by federal prosecutors in court on Tuesday as Alan Schmidt, who previously told The New York Times the then-deputies pulled him over in December 2022 for an expired tag, only to accuse him of stealing tools.

Schmidt told the Times the “Goon Squad” members assaulted him, beat him and tased him. He said one deputy rubbed his genital and buttocks against his head.

The three ex-officers accused in Schmidt’s case – Dedmon, Elward and Opdyke – have all pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color or law. They entered plea agreements last July.

Dedmon pleaded to two additional charges related to the incident, including discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence and a second count of deprivation of rights.

The deprivation of rights charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, according to court documents. The firearms charge carries a minimum 10-year sentence.

Court documents reviewed by CNN also said “Dedmon discharged a firearm in close proximity to A.S. for the purpose of scaring and coercing a confession.”

A statement from Schmidt was read by federal prosecutors in court during sentencing hearings for the “Goon Squad.”

“I pray every day that I can forgive them. I know I’m not their only victim. It will take years to live a somewhat normal life,” Schmidt’s statement said.

“I thought the assault would go on forever,” the statement said. “The harder I prayed, the harder I was beaten.”

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Michael Corey Jenkins

**This image is for use with this specific article only** Michael Corey Jenkins shows the scar that remains after a Mississippi law enforcement officer shot him in the mouth.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP via CNN Newsource

20 Mar 24

Christian Dedmon and Daniel Opdyke

**This image is for use with this specific article only** Christian Dedmon and Daniel Opdyke are expected to be sentenced Wednesday.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP via CNN Newsource

20 Mar 24

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