Last of the Mississippi ‘Goon Squad’ Officers Sentenced in Federal Court

Matt McGregor
By Matt McGregor
March 22, 2024US News
Last of the Mississippi ‘Goon Squad’ Officers Sentenced in Federal Court
This combination of photos shows, from (top L), former Rankin County sheriff's deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield appearing at the Rankin County Circuit Court in Brandon, Miss., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo)

The final two members of the so-called “Goon Squad” of police officers in Mississippi were sentenced on Thursday in federal court for the January 2023 torture and assault of two black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker.

On Thursday afternoon, Judge Tom Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi sentenced Joshua Hartfield to a 10-year prison term.

Mr. Hartfield, a former officer with the Richland Police Department, is one of six men who pleaded guilty in August to federal charges of civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under the color of law, discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and to state charges of aggravated assault, home invasion, obstruction of justice, and hindering a prosecution.

The other five men were members of the Rankin County Sheriff’s office, including Brett McAlpin. Prosecutor Christopher Perras alleged Mr. McAlpin to be the “mafia don” of the group. He was sentenced on Thursday to over 27 years in prison.

“His rank provided control over his co-conspirators,” Judge Lee said at the sentencing, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. “He directed the actions of various people.”

Decades in Prison

The former Rankin County Sheriff’s deputies involved in the case are Mr. McAlpin, 52; Christian Dedmon, 29; Jeffrey Middleton, 46; Hunter Elward, 31; and Daniel Opdyke, 27.

On Tuesday, Mr. Elward was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Mr. Middleton was sentenced to 17.5 years.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Mr. Dedmon, who received the longest sentence of 40 years, orchestrated the assaults. He addressed the victims at his sentencing hearing.

“I want to tell them I’m sorry for what they went through, what they are going through,” Mr. Dedmon said, according to WAPT. “If I [could] take every bit of it back, I promise I would.”

Mr. Opdyke was sentenced to 17.5 years.

In a statement to ABC News, the lead attorney for the victims, Malik Shabazz, said the sentences of the six former officers made history.

“All of these ‘Goon Squad’ sentences are sending a serious message to all rogue police and other ‘Goon Squads’ all over America, that justice is coming for you,” he said.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who oversaw five of the six “Goon Squad” officers, issued a statement after the sentencing, saying the former officers’ crimes “undermine the reputation of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department.”

Local station WLBT reported that throughout the sentencing hearings, defendants and prosecutors repeatedly called out the department for having a “culture of violence.”

“Because the safety and security of everyone in Rankin County is a primary concern for this department, we fully cooperated with all investigative and prosecutorial efforts by federal and state officials,” the sheriff said. “As a result of those efforts, these former deputies are being held accountable for their actions.”

Details of the Assault

According to the federal indictment, Mr. McAlpin received a phone call from a neighbor complaining that “several Black males” were staying at a nearby home in Rankin County and that the neighbor had observed “suspicious behavior.”

Prosecutors said the home was owned by a white woman identified in court documents as K.W., and that she was a longtime friend of Mr. Parker’s. Mr. Parker was living with K.W. to help care for her, and Mr. Jenkins was staying at the home temporarily at the time of the assault.

Mr. McAlpin directed Mr. Dedmon to respond, and the officers went to the home and kicked in the door without a warrant. The officers then handcuffed the men and called them racial slurs. They physically assaulted the victims. Prosecutors said the officers used a stun gun on them multiple times, forced them to ingest liquids, beat them, and assaulted them with a sex object.

According to the indictment, Mr. Dedmon fired his gun on two occasions to intimidate the men.

Mr. Elward then surreptitiously removed a round from the chamber of his gun, forced it into Mr. Jenkins’ mouth, and pulled the trigger, which clicked without firing.

He then racked the slide with the intention of dry firing a second time. However, the gun discharged, and the bullet cut through Mr. Jenkins’ tongue, broke his jaw, and pierced through his neck.

The officers then engaged in a cover-up operation without providing medical aid.

In response to allegations of Mr. Bailey’s involvement at the time, he said the only thing he was guilty of was “trusting grown men that swore an oath to do their job correctly. I am guilty of that, but the people of Rankin County elected me to do a job during good times and during bad times. Yes, this is a bad time.”

WLBT reported that Mr. Parker spoke for the first time in court on Wednesday, stating that he was living with his friend, K.W., to help care for her because she is paralyzed. He also said he was the only black man living in that part of the Braxton community.

He divulged details of the incident, which was reported to last 88 minutes.

Mr. Dedmon, he alleged, was sitting on the bed “Indian-style” and smiling as the torture continued.

“It was fun for them,” Mr. Parker said. “He wasn’t sorry for what he did. He was sorry he got caught.”

After asking the judge if he could address the victims personally, Mr. Elward said, “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.”

In response, Mr. Parker stood up and said, “We forgive you, man,” CNN reported.

Mr. Jenkins, however, told CNN that the apology didn’t mean anything to him.

From The Epoch Times

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