Former Mississippi officers plead guilty to state charges for torturing Black men | Mississippi [wafact]

In late January, a group of six white Mississippi police officers raided a house in Rankin county, a suburb outside of Jackson, and tortured two Black men for an hour and a half. The following month, the justice department opened a civil rights investigation into the Rankin county sheriff’s department, and since then, the officers have either resigned or been fired. Activists have also called for the resignation of Rankin county sheriff Bryan Bailey.

On Monday, the former officers pleaded guilty to state charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy from the assault of Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. The former sheriff’s deputies Brett McAlpin, Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, along with Joshua Hartfield, a former police officer in nearby Richland, had already pleaded guilty to federal charges on 3 August.

The assault on Jenkins and Parker, which occurred in the same month police beat Tyre Nichols to death in Memphis, Tennessee, exposed yet another incident of police brutality that disproportionately harms Black Americans. In an investigation, the Associated Press linked the assaults of at least four other Black men in Rankin county to several officers in the department’s Special Response Team, a unit that receives advanced training.

The January Rankin county raid started with a 911 call that harkened back to the days of Emmett Till, the young Black boy who was beaten to death in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. On 24 January, a white neighbor in the majority-white suburb complained that two Black men were living in a house with a white woman. Jenkins had taken care of the homeowner, Kristi Walley, a childhood friend who owned the house and was paralyzed.

During the raid and without a warrant, the white officers, some of whom called themselves the “Goon Squad”, abused the men with stun guns and a sex toy. Elward, who had been involved in two previous deadly encounters, shoved a gun into Jenkins’ mouth and pulled the trigger, conducting a “mock execution”. Jenkins still struggles to speak and suffers from a lacerated tongue and broken jaw. Court documents also show that the officers hurled racist insults at Jenkins and Parker and at one point told them to “stay out of Rankin county and go back to Jackson or ‘their side’ of the Pearl River”, referring to the river that runs through the majority-Black Jackson.

Bailey, the sheriff, told reporters that the officers lied during the investigation. And according to the Associated Press, the officers tried to cover up the ploy rather than help the victims, attempting to plant a gun and drugs at the scene and falsely charge Jenkins with possession.

In June, Jenkins and Parker filed a civil rights lawsuit against Rankin county sheriff’s department seeking $400m in damages. The former officers will all be sentenced in mid-November.

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