A plea hearing was held at the Rankin County Circuit Court on Monday, August 14.
Five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and an ex-Richland police officer pled guilty to charges in federal court on Thursday, August 3.
The state charges against the former officers include aggravated assault, home invasion, obstruction of justice/hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice/hindering prosecution.
The state charges as are follows:
- Former Rankin County Sheriff Deputy Hunter Elward was charged with Aggravated Assault, Home Invasion, and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
- Former Rankin County Sheriff Narcotics Investigator Christian Dedmon was charged with Home Invasion and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
- Former Rankin County Sheriff Chief Investigator Brett McAlpin was charged with Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
- Former Rankin County Sheriff Lieutenant Jeffrey Middleton was charged with Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
- Former Rankin County Sheriff Deputy Daniel Opdyke was charged with Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
- Former Richland Police Department Narcotics Investigator Joshua Hartfield was charged with Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
Each reached individual plea agreements that include prison sentences ranging from five to 30 years, court records show. Time served for the state charges will run concurrently with federal sentences they are scheduled to receive. Each could get longer prison sentences in federal court in November.
All six pleaded guilty to state charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. Dedmon and Elward, who kicked in a door, pleaded guilty to additional charges of home invasion. Elward also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, for shoving a gun into the mouth of one of the victims and pulling the trigger, in what authorities called a “mock execution.”
In federal court, the six defendants pleaded guilty to 13 federal felony offenses, including civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.
Court documents show that on Jan. 24, the officers burst into the home without a warrant, then handcuffed and used a stun gun on the two men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker.
The officers assaulted them with a sex object, beat them and used their stun guns repeatedly over a roughly 90-minute period. The episode culminated with one deputy placing a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and firing, which cut his tongue, broke his jaw and exited out his neck, the court documents said.
The officers did not give him medical attention, instead discussing a “false cover story to cover up their misconduct,” as well as planting and tampering with evidence, the documents said.
The officers went to the home in Braxton because a white neighbor had complained that Black people were staying with the white woman who owned the house, court documents said. Officers used racist slurs against the two men during the raid, the court documents show.
The victims are identified only by their initials in the documents, but Jenkins and Parker have publicly discussed the episode. They filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County in June seeking $400 million in damages.
Court documents said the officers gave themselves the Goon Squad nickname “because of their willingness to use excessive force and and not to report it.”
The documents identified Elward as the person who shot Jenkins, and Opdyke and Dedmon as the ones who assaulted the two men with the sex object.
The Justice Department in February launched the civil rights probe into allegations levied by Jenkins and Parker.
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced on June 27 that all five deputies involved in the Jan. 24 episode had been fired or resigned. Hartfield was later revealed to be the sixth law enforcement officer at the raid. Hartfield was off-duty when he participated in the raid, and he was also fired.
Bailey released a statement after the guilty pleas on Monday.
We hope that today’s guilty pleas bring some sense of justice to the two victims in this case.
In one of our first public statements, we said “if any deputy or suspect involved in this incident is found to have broken the law, he will be held accountable in accordance with the law.” I believe today’s guilty pleas show the community that our system of checks and balances is effective. An unbiased and impartial investigation into these former officers uncovered their criminal actions.
We thank the men and women of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice for their time, energy, and effort devoted to this case.
The Rankin County Sheriff’s Office continues to evaluate and modify its policies, procedures, and training for all sheriff’s office employees. We have asked for assistance from outside agencies and contracted with outside firms to evaluate us, make recommendations, and conduct training. These actions are taken to prevent anything like January’s tragedy from ever happening again.Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey
The Associated Press contributed to this report.