Six ex-Mississippi police officers have admitted guilt in connection with allegations of torturing and mistreating two black men in a raid. They were part of a self-proclaimed group called the ‘Goon Squad,’ identified by coins featuring their name and the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office badge.
One member, Lieutenant Jeffrey Middleton, seemed to lead the group, evident by his coin labeled ‘Lt Middleton’s Goon Squad.’ Five of the men who pleaded guilty are former sheriffs deputies for Rankin County and they are Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Daniel Opdyke, along with Middleton. Joshua Hartfield, a former police officer in Richland, Mississippi, is the sixth person who pleaded guilty.
They have all been charged for their involvement in the assault on the Black men — Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker in January. Elward specifically faces charges of home invasion and aggravated assault for a distressing act involving a gun. The group is accused of assaulting the victims with various items like sex toys, firearms, stun guns, as well as milk, eggs, alcohol, and chocolate syrup on January 24, according to the Daily Mail.
The police officers involved potentially face extensive legal consequences, including a collective maximum prison sentence of 641 years and two life sentences, alongside fines totaling $12.25 million for both state and federal charges.
Charges against the individuals include home invasion for Dedmon, with McAlpin, Middleton, Opdyke, and Hartfield each also being charged with first-degree obstruction of justice.
It was revealed in court that Middleton had a previous conviction for vehicular manslaughter in 2007. The victims confronted their assailants in court, sitting in close proximity to the families of the accused officers.
Officers, dubbing themselves the ‘Goon Squad’ due to their propensity for excessive force and subsequent cover-ups, are under scrutiny, according to prosecutors. The incident arose from a complaint by a white neighbor regarding the presence of two black men with a white woman in a home.
Parker, a friend of the paralyzed homeowner Kristi Walley, was aiding her. According to federal prosecutors, the six officers sexually and physically assaulted Parker and Jenkins for more than two hours after handcuffing them during the January 24 raid on the Black men’s Braxton, Mississippi, home without a warrant. The officers also hurled racial slurs at them and even went ahead to carry out mock executions on Jenkins, shooting him in the face and injuring him, prosecutors said. The officers then decided to come up with a false cover story and went ahead to plant a gun while destroying surveillance video, officials said. The officers also tried to burn the clothes of the two Black men, prosecutors said.
All of the officers were fired or resigned following the incident. The two Black men also filed a $400 million federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County in June.