Former cops could be imprisoned for torture of African American men

Former cops could be imprisoned for torture of African American men
  • By Bernd Debusmann Jr
  • BBC News, Washington

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The men face decades in prison

Six former Mississippi police officers are due to be sentenced for torturing two black men in their own home.

The victims were beaten, shocked with stun guns and sexually assaulted by the officers who burst in without a warrant in 2023. One of them was also shot in the mouth.

The group, which dubbed itself the “Goon Squad”, pleaded guilty to federal civil rights offences in August.

They are all due to be sentenced this week, starting on Tuesday.

The first of the officers, Hunter Elward, will be the first sentenced, followed by the other five: Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jerffrey Middleton, Daniel Opydke and Joshua Hartfield.

Each faces the possibility of decades in prison on the charges, which include conspiracy against rights, obstructions of justice, deprivation of rights under colour of law, discharge of a firearm under a crime of violence, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

According to prosecutors, the officers – all of whom are white – were responding to a call about suspicious activity in the Rankin County town of Braxton when they entered the home of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker.

The two men were handcuffed and subject to an hours-long assault in which they were repeatedly beaten, shocked and mocked with racial slurs.

One deputy officer also shot Mr Jenkins in the mouth during a botched mock execution, cutting his tongue and breaking his jaw.

On Monday, Mr Jenkins and Mr Parker called for the “stiffest of sentences” to be meted out on the former officers.

“It’s been very hard for me, for us,” Mr Jenkins told the Associated Press. “We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”

Three of the six officers in the case have also pleaded guilty to a separate incident involving a 28-year-old white victim. The details of that incident are still unclear.

Subsequent investigations by the New York Times, Mississippi Today and the Associated Press found that the 2023 incident was part of a larger pattern of violent police misconduct spanning decades.

The Associated Press investigation linked some of the officers to at least four other violent encounters that left two people dead.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, for whom the officers were working, is facing a separate $400m lawsuit for allegedly failing to properly train the officers.

Mr Bailey has asked that the suit be dismissed and, after months of silence, vowed to change the department after the officers pleaded guilty in August.

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