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Richland Officer Fired For Attack On Black Men, Police Chief Says

Officer Joshua Hartfield seen sanding outside holding awards
The Richland Police Department fired Officer Joshua Hartfield, seen here receiving the department’s 2017 Top Cop Award, for allegedly participating in a brutal attack on two Black men, Eddie Terrell Parker and Michael Jenkins, in Rankin County, Miss. Police Chief Nick McLendon announced Hartfield’s firing in a July 3, 2023, letter. Photo courtesy Richland Police Department

The Richland Police Department has fired Officer Joshua Hartfield for allegedly participating in the beating and torture of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, Richland Police Chief Nick McLendon wrote in a letter to the community on July 3.

The police chief’s announcement of Hartfield’s termination came a week after Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said his department had fired five deputies in connection with violence against Jenkins and Parker.

“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt regret that we must confirm that former Officer Joshua Hartfield, while off duty, has been implicated in an incident occurring in Rankin County, Mississippi on January 24, 2023. We must express our deepest disappointment that a member of our department is claimed to be involved in a situation that goes against our department’s commitment to serve and protect the public,” McLendon wrote.

The police chief said the police department placed Hartfield on administrative leave before the officer resigned.

“As we navigate through this difficult time, we reaffirm our commitment to holding ourselves accountable. Just as we bring criminals to justice, so too (sic) must we hold ourselves to the same standards and answer for our actions,” McLendon wrote.

The Richland Police Department posted the full letter on its Facebook page.

Jenkins and Parker’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against Rankin County, Sheriff Bailey and the six officers on June 12. It named deputies Hunter Elward, Brett Mc’Alpin and Christian Dedmon as three of the defendants, along with three “John Doe deputies,” one of whom was Hartfield.

Michael Jenkins at a press conference about injuries allegedly from a Rankin County deputy sheriff
Michael Jenkins (pictured right) left the University of Mississippi Medical Center on Feb. 14, 2023. He was at the facility for weeks of treatment for a gunshot wound to the mouth. A Rankin County deputy sheriff shot him in the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2023, his attorneys alleged at a Feb. 15, 2023, press conference. With Jenkins (from the left) are one of his counsels, attorney Trent Walker and his mother, Mary Jenkins. Photo by Kayode Crown

Jenkins and Parker alleged that six officers entered and raided their home on Jan. 24 without a warrant then sexually assaulted, waterboarded and beat them before shooting Jenkins in the mouth.

“Throughout this nearly two-hour occurrence, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker would completely comply with law enforcement,” the lawsuit says.

‘No One Is Holding Mississippi Accountable’

John Barnett, a national civil rights leader and the founder of T.H.U.G.: True Healing Under God, held two press conferences Wednesday to address Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch at her Jackson office and Sheriff Bailey at the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department in Brandon.

“(I) have never heard of a case like this. … But this particular case disturbs me because they intended to kill (Jenkins),” he said at the press conference outside Fitch’s office.

He came in support of Jenkins and Parker, as well as others killed by police officers in Mississippi like Damien Cameron.

Monica Lee Cameron attended the event to raise awareness for her son’s case. She said she witnessed Rankin County deputies Hunter Elward and Luke Stickman kneel on Damien Cameron’s back for over 20 minutes, ultimately causing him to die at age 29. Elward was also among the five Rankin County officers fired for the attack on Jenkins and Parker.

“We understand that the alleged actions of these deputies has eroded the public’s trust in our department. Rest assured that we’ll work diligently to restore that trust,” Bailey said at a June 27 press conference.

He said the sheriff’s department is providing information regarding the “police, procedures and training of all personnel” and has hired a full-time compliance officer to ensure the department and its employees are following local, state and federal laws.

Damien Cameron in a white tshirt and red hat
Damien Cameron’s mother said two Rankin County sheriff’s deputies used excessive force and inflicted life-ending injuries on her 29-year-old son on July 26, 2021. Photo courtesy Clorissa Wright

But Barnett claimed Bailey “condoned the behavior” of the officers involved in both cases.

“This ain’t a Dr. King speech. We’re demanding that you all put charges against those individuals because we will be coming back to Mississippi. We’ll be staging justice rallies at local churches,” he said.

Barnett said he has been trying to set up a meeting with Fitch for about a month to see if she would charge the six officers, but she has not responded to his attempts to contact her. When a police department fires an officer, the officer should not be able to move to a new city or state and join its law enforcement, he added.

“We want their certification to be revoked indefinitely, just like they do driver’s licenses,” he said.

Priscilla Williams-Till Sterling, a family member of Emmett Till and the founder of the Emmett Till Justice for Families Foundation, said racism and police brutality often go unchallenged in the state “simply because no one is holding Mississippi accountable.”

“So, you have a hierarchy of organizations that are white supremacists. This is the problem that is happening in Mississippi today,” she said.

She said her family has been fighting for justice for Till for about eight years. When they tried to contact Fitch, the attorney general said there was “no evidence” to take Carolyn Bryant Donham to court and charge her with a crime. Donham’s accusations that Till whistled at her in 1955 led to the 14-year-old’s abduction and brutal lynching. A Leflore County grand jury declined to indict her over his abduction last year. She died on April 25.

“We’ve never seen any justice from the State of Mississippi,” Sterling said.

The Mississippi Free Press attempted to contact Bailey but did not receive a response. Fitch’s office declined to speak on ongoing investigations.

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