Six white Rankin County, Miss., law enforcement officers accused of beating and assaulting two Black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, pleaded guilty to 13 federal civil rights charges in federal court Thursday.
Jenkins and Parker alleged in February that the officers raided their Braxton, Miss., home without a warrant on Jan. 24, 2023, then beat, sexually assaulted, waterboarded and tortured them for about 90 minutes. Rankin County Sheriff’s deputy Hunter Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth with the intent to kill him, U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi said at a press conference in Jackson, Miss., on Thursday.
The Rankin County Sheriff’s Department fired deputies Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Daniel Opdyke and Jeffrey Middleton, Sheriff Bryan Bailey said at a June 27 press conference. The Richland Police Department terminated officer Joshua Hartfield over his involvement soon after, Richland Police Chief Nick McLendon wrote in a letter to the community on July 3.
“The defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims, egregiously violated the civil rights of citizens who they were supposed to protect, and shamefully betrayed the oath they swore as law enforcement officers,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement Thursday. “The Justice Department will hold accountable officers who abuse the public trust that is essential to public safety.”
The Mississippi Attorney General’s office also filed state charges against the officers, including aggravated assault, home invasion, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced Thursday in a press release.
“Without a relationship of trust between law enforcement officers and those they swear to serve and protect, our fight for justice and against crime is doomed to fail,” Fitch said. “This brutal attack caused more than physical harm to these two individual victims; it severed that vital trust with the people. This abuse of power will not be tolerated.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clark also said at the Jackson press conference that the officers destroyed “physical evidence, including shell cases, clothing and surveillance video” and threatened “physical harm and death to witnesses if they told the truth.” LaMarca said the officers framed Jenkins and Parker for drug possession to justify the torture and arrest of the men.
“They actually used methamphetamines seized in another case to attribute it to what was found in this house in this location to send to the crime lab to use as justification for what they did,” LaMarca said at the press conference.
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey told WAPT Thursday that he was “disgusted” by his former employees’ actions.
“I’ve tried to build a reputation here. I’ve tried to have a safe county, and they have robbed me of all of this. This is a perfect example of why people don’t trust the police, and never in my life did I think it would happen in my department,” Bailey said.
He apologized to the victims and county citizens and said he would “do his best to fix it.”
The U.S. Department of Justice began investigating Jenkins and Parker’s claims in February. The men filed a $400,000 lawsuit against the officers, Rankin County and Sheriff Bryan Bailey on June 12.
Elward, McAlpin, Opdyke, Middleton, Dedmon and Hartfield will enter a guilty plea Aug. 14 in Rankin County. A judge will sentence them between Nov. 14-16.
The Mississippi Free Press attempted to contact Sheriff Bailey but did not receive a response by press time.