Home National news Former ‘Goon Squad’ Officers Sentenced for Violent Civil Rights Offenses in Mississippi

Former ‘Goon Squad’ Officers Sentenced for Violent Civil Rights Offenses in Mississippi

The former deputies counted among six former law enforcement officers, self-identified as the “Goon Squad,” who were scheduled to face sentencing following their admissions of guilt to federal civil rights violations.

Former Mississippi Sheriff’s Deputy Hunter Elward received a 20-year prison sentence on Tuesday, March 19, for the torture of two Black men in 2023. Elward pleaded guilty in August to federal charges of discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice related to the January 2023 incident.

Jeffrey Middleton, a 46-year-old former sheriff’s deputy whom federal prosecutors described as the ringleader of the group, was sentenced to more than 17 and a half years in prison.

The former deputies counted among six former law enforcement officers, self-identified as the “Goon Squad,” who were scheduled to face sentencing following their admissions of guilt to federal civil rights violations. The charges stem from the heinous acts of torture and sexual assault perpetrated against two Black individuals and an anonymous white victim. Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, and Daniel Opdyke, as well as former Richland Police Department officer Joshua Hartfield, pleaded guilty 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.

Dedmon and Opdyke will be sentenced on Wednesday, and Hartfield and McAlpin on Thursday. Federal prosecutors sought the maximum sentences for the officers.

McAlpin, Dedmon, Opdyke, and Hartfield each face up to 20 years in prison.

The sentencing arrives months after a lawsuit by the victims that detailed how the officers illegally entered their home and handcuffed, kicked, waterboarded, and tased them and attempted to sexually assault them over nearly two hours. One of the officers placed his weapon in Jenkins’ mouth and shot him.

Prosecutors said the officers nicknamed themselves “The Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force and not report it.”

Over three days in Jackson, Miss., federal court, a judge planned to sentence the officers, whom prosecutors derided as criminals who hid behind the badge to commit some of the most heinous and violent acts. “I’m so sorry,” Elward pleaded, looking out into the courtroom at victims, Eddie Parker, and Michael Jenkins. “I don’t want to get too personal with you, Michael. 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 and other victims of the officers also planned to provide impact statements.

The case intensified following a high-profile raid by five Rankin County deputies and a Richland Police detective at the residence of Eddie Parker, 36, and his associate, Michael Jenkins, 33. The raid culminated in the brutal handcuffing, torture, and sexual assault of the occupants.

Notably, Jenkins suffered severe injuries as a result of Elward shooting him in the mouth, leading officers to fabricate a self-defense story. Moreover, three deputies from the department pleaded guilty in a separate incident, underscoring systemic issues within the law enforcement agency.

Alarming accounts of ongoing abuse by Rankin County deputies over almost 20 years have surfaced, with victims recounting instances of handcuffing, torture, and beating, frequently in the course of making drug-related arrests. Despite numerous complaints and lawsuits against the department, including direct appeals to Sheriff Bryan Bailey, allegations remained largely unaddressed.

Many have expressed belief that the sentencing hearings will further unearth the extent of misconduct within the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department, including the plight of Alan Schmidt, a victim who recently came forward to share his ordeal with the Goon Squad. Schmidt claimed that deputies falsely accused him of stealing and assaulted him physically, including by pressing a gun to his head and shocking him with a Taser.

District Attorney Bubba Bramlett has initiated a comprehensive review of cases involving “Goon Squad” members, and state lawmakers have introduced legislation to bolster oversight of law enforcement agencies, signaling a potential paradigm shift in accountability.

“The very bad actions of the Rankin County ‘Goon Squad’ severely impacted me and left a scar on me forever,” Parker’s statement said, as read by attorney Malik Shabazz. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to sleep at night. I fear I will be attacked again and even killed.”

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