Final 2 former Mississippi officers in racially charged ‘Goon Squad’ case to be sentenced

Final 2 former Mississippi officers in racially charged ‘Goon Squad’ case to be sentenced - Crime and Courts - News

Two Former Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers to be Sentenced for Role in Brutal Torture of Black Men

On Thursday, in a historic moment for Mississippi and the United States, former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield and former Rankin County deputy Brett McAlpin will be sentenced in Jackson for their involvement in the torture of two African American men in 2023. This follows an emotional three-day federal hearing where victims came face-to-face with their tormentors, and testimonies of racially motivated beatings, sexual assaults, and mock executions were presented.

A total of six former law enforcement officers have pleaded guilty to federal charges, including conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, and obstruction of justice. They were part of a group of White Mississippi officers who raided a home in Braxton without a warrant and subjected the two African American men, Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins, to racial slurs, Taser usage after they had already been handcuffed, beatings with various objects, and shot Jenkins in the mouth.

The most severe sentence so far was imposed on former Rankin County sheriff’s deputy Christian Dedmon, who received a 40-year prison term. Prosecutors described him as the most sexually perverted of the officers and the one who subjected victims to egregious sexual acts. Dedmon, 29, had ample experience but hid behind his badge and gun.

Christian Dedmon addressed the court before sentencing but did not make eye contact or speak directly to the victims like other former officers did. He expressed remorse, stating that he got into law enforcement with good intentions but failed terribly: “The lies, the pain I caused them, I will never forgive myself for. If I could take everything back, I promise that I would.”

Melvin Jenkins, Michael’s father, stated after the sentencing: “I’ve lived in Mississippi 68 years, and I’ve never seen justice like this.” He thanked Federal Judge Tom Lee for the historic prison term that was ‘unheard of’ in Mississippi. Dedmon received an additional sentence on a separate charge, totaling 42 years in prison.

Former deputy Daniel Opdyke, who beat and Tasered a white man and fired a gun near his head to coerce a confession in December 2022, was sentenced to over 17 years in prison. Before being handed down his sentence, Opdyke addressed the court and the victims directly, expressing deep regret for his actions: “I cannot fathom how I fell so easily in line, going along with and actively participating in the use of excessive force.”

In addition to their federal charges, the officers also face state charges for which they await sentencing. The victims’ attorney, Malik Shabazz, called this momentous occasion a “remarkable and historic moment for the state of Mississippi and the United States of America and victims of police brutality and police abuse.”

Two former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies, Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton, have already been sentenced. Elward, who shot Michael Jenkins in the mouth, was given a 20-year sentence and apologized to the victims in court. Middleton, supervisor on duty during the attacks, received a 17½-year term.

The horrifying accounts of this “Goon Squad” of officers brought attention to the issue of police brutality in Mississippi, leaving a significant impact on the community.