Former Mississippi Cop Sentenced for Racist ‘Goon Squad’ Torture Case

Former Mississippi Cop Sentenced for Racist ‘Goon Squad’ Torture Case

A former law enforcement officer in Mississippi was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in federal prison for his role in a racist attack by six White officers on two Black men who were tortured and subjected to a mock execution last year.

Former Rankin County sheriff’s deputy Hunter Elward, who is White and who shot one of the victims in the mouth, pleaded guilty last summer to federal charges that included conspiracy and deprivations of rights. Four other sheriff’s deputies and a Richland (Miss.) Police Department officer, all of them White, also pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing this week.

The case has drawn national attention amid ongoing demands from civil rights groups to rein in the use of excessive force and mistreatment of Black people by police. Federal prosecutors said the Mississippi officers — who called themselves the “Goon squad” — forced entry into a Braxton, Miss., home on Jan. 24, 2023, without a warrant and assaulted the two Black victims, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Parker, with a stun gun, sex toy and other objects.

The officers then subjected the victims to a “mock execution,” which ended when Elward mistakenly shot Jenkins in the mouth, lacerating his tongue and breaking his jaw, according to federal prosecutors. Though Jenkins was bleeding, the officers failed to provide medical aid and instead concocted a coverup story that included planting a gun on Jenkins and destroying evidence, authorities said.

Elward apologized to the victims during the sentencing hearing, according to local news reports.

Outside the courthouse after Elward’s sentencing, Parker said he forgave him for what he had done.

“But other than that, he did what he did, and he has to be punished for that,” Parker told reporters. “I’m satisfied.”

Jenkins told reporters he does not forgive Elward: “No, I don’t, because if he wouldn’t have been caught, he’d still be doing the same thing.”

All six officers have also pleaded guilty to state charges. In addition to Elward, the other defendants are former sheriff’s deputies Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. Middleton is set to be sentenced Tuesday afternoon, Dedmon and Opdyke on Wednesday, and McAlpin and Hartfield on Thursday.

The assault took place after a White person contacted McAlpin to report that two Black men were staying with a White woman at the home in Braxton. The officers kicked in the door and attacked the victims: using racial slurs, punching and kicking them, pouring milk, chocolate and alcohol on their faces and forcing them to shower together, authorities said.

The officers Tasered them 17 times and demanded that the men stay out of Rankin County. Dedmon fired his service weapon twice to intimidate them.

“The defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement last year when the officers’ guilty pleas were announced.

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