Rankin County sheriff’s deputies “tortured” and subjected two Black men to “waterboarding techniques,” before shooting one of them in the mouth while he was in handcuffs, attorneys for the men alleged in a notice of claims they delivered to authorities Wednesday.
The document alleged that “six white sheriff’s deputies” raided a private residence where Michael Jenkins, 32, and Eddie Terrell Parker, 35, stayed at 135 Conerly Road in Braxton, Miss., “without warning or warrant” in what the Rankin County sheriff later called a narcotics investigation.
The FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident. The Rankin County Sheriff’s office did not reply to the Mississippi Free Press’ request for comments following calls on Tuesday and Wednesday. WLBT published a report Wednesday night, which included a statement from the sheriff.
“Multiple suspects were taken into custody, and we contacted the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to investigate the actions of our deputies,” Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said in the statement. “We are fully cooperating with that ongoing investigation and will continue to do so.
“Rest assured, if any deputy or suspect involved in this incident is found to have broken the law, he will be held accountable in accordance with the law.”
‘Six Officers Calling Them N–ger’
On Wednesday, the men’s lead counsel, Malik Zulu Shabazz, read from the notice at Backyard Burgers near the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Without presenting any warrant information, with no warrant, the officers forced their way into the residence,” Shabazz of the Black Lawyers for Justice said. “Then these deputies immediately subdued and handcuffed these men.”
“At no point did Michael Jenkins or Eddie Terrell Parker resist the Rankin County deputies in any way,” he said. “What ensued, after these two men were handcuffed and they were detained, what happened after that was an approximately 90-minute long intimidation and torture session where excessive force was used gratuitously on the handcuffed men.”
Shabazz, who is the founder and national director of Black Lawyers For Justice, said the deputies repeatedly punched, kicked, tased, and abused both men while they were in handcuffs.
“While in handcuffs, racial slurs were used by these six officers calling them n–ger at different points,” Shabazz continued. “In addition, Rankin County deputies, while these men were handcuffed for over 90 minutes, these deputies repeatedly pointed guns to the heads of both men and threatened to kill them.”
“But at the end of it, while handcuffed, Michael Jenkins had a gun placed in his mouth by a Rankin County deputy, and the trigger was pulled, intending to kill. And it’s only by God’s grace that he stands here today because the bullet escaped on the right side of his neck.”
Shabazz also alleged that the deputy sheriffs pelted both men with eggs and used waterboarding techniques.
“They were placed on their backs in handcuffs, and they had milk, alcohol—whatever could be found in the house—they were pouring it and pouring it on their faces to try to make the men believe that they were somehow drowning, I guess, to try to elicit some kind of confession,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz said the team filed the notices with the Rankin County Clerk Larry Swales and Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey on Wednesday in accordance with Mississippi law, which requires a 90-day notice before filing a lawsuit against a government entity.
Shabazz has drawn condemnation from some civil rights organizations over the years because of his views and past remarks about race and Jewish people.
Feds Open Civil Rights Investigation
The FBI released a statement Wednesday saying it had opened a federal civil rights investigation into the allegations against the six Rankin County deputies.
“The FBI Jackson Field Office, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi have opened a federal civil rights investigation into a color of law incident involving the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office,” the FBI statement said. “The FBI will conduct the investigation in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
Sheriff Bailey called the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation at 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 25 and requested that the agency’s “assistance on an officer-involved shooting that occurred following a police response to a narcotics investigation on January 24, 2023, at approximately 11:40 p.m., in Rankin County,” the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said in a report provided to the Mississippi Free Press on Wednesday.
“We will be unable to answer your question regarding this investigation,” Roberts Wentworth, an official at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said in an email to the Mississippi Free Press Wednesday.
In 2021, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a law that puts the investigation of “all incidents of officer-involved shootings, other than state trooper-involved shootings, resulting in injury or death,” under the purview of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which typically does not release information promptly.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety Communications Director Bailey Martin told the Mississippi Free Press in a text message on Wednesday that the “incident is under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. Due to this being an open and ongoing investigation, no further comment will be made at this time.”
‘They Had To Sew His Tongue Back’
At the press conference Wednesday, attorney Malik Shabazz said “the family and this community and the attorneys are demanding criminal charges be brought right away against these deputies.” He said the alleged shooting was “not done in the heat of passion” because Michael Jenkins “wasn’t running from the police, he wasn’t wrestling with the police, he was in handcuffs, and he should have been taken away.”
“This man does not have a felony on his record,” the attorney continued. “… They decided that they were going to torture him, abuse him, and otherwise attempt to murder him while handcuffed. I mean, I haven’t even seen this in ages to this degree.”
“We are demanding hate crime charges be brought against these officers; because of the race of the perpetrator, the race of the victims, and the racist language that was used in the course of committing these crimes against these men, there’s probable cause for that. We have to make it clear we are demanding that all six officers involved in the January 25 shooting in the mouth of Michael Jenkins, while handcuffed, were demanding that all of the officers be immediately indicted, arrested, and brought into custody.”
He said, “both of these men have been charged with bogus crimes,” and explained that officers charged Jenkins with aggravated assault and possession of a controlled substance; they charged Eddie Parker with disorderly conduct and possession of paraphernalia.
Parker said he watched as one of the deputies shot Jenkins in the mouth and described the experience as traumatizing. “It was a night of hell that I never thought that I’ll go through; we were called names, we were talked to all wrong, all because of the color of our skin,” he said.
Jenkins’ mother, Mary Jenkins, said the gunshot shattered her son’s jaw and cut his tongue. “It went into his mouth and out of his ear. and they had to go in and to repair his jaw, they had to wire his jaw shut,” she said. “The gun went in, it cut his tongue, and they had to sew his tongue back.”
“How many mothers have to stand here and tell people about their son because of the color of their skin? Why should my son die or get hurt because he was born Black? It’s not right, and something has to be done about it.”
Shabazz asked both Jenkins and Parker to confirm the allegations in the notice of claims, but Jenkins struggled to speak. The University of Mississippi Medical Center released him Tuesday following two rounds of surgeries.
“Did you observe Michael Jenkins shot in the mouth by a Rankin County deputy?” Shabazz asked Parker.
“I was looking dead at him. He was handcuffed—we both were handcuffed.”
“And how has this affected you?” Shabbaz continued.
“I don’t sleep. I’m scared to, I’m scared to like, just sit around the house, you know, every, every little noise makes me look around,” he said. “I’m, I’m, I’m wondering if they (are) coming back, you know, to get me. I’m traumatized. I, I don’t know. I can’t even think. All I know is the pain. All I know is I’m glad to be alive.”