Mississippi officers plead guilty in assault of two Black men

By Rachel Nostrant

(Reuters) – Six white former Mississippi law enforcement officers pleaded guilty on Monday to state charges for brutally assaulting two Black men in January, including shooting one in the mouth, court documents showed.

The six officers, who called themselves the “Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force, according to the documents, entered their pleas in Rankin County Court in Brandon. The charges included aggravated assault, burglary, home invasion and hindering prosecution.

Five of the defendants were Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and one was a police officer in Richland, Mississippi. They pleaded guilty Aug. 3 to federal charges including civil rights conspiracy for the same incident. Each potentially faces decades in federal prison and hefty fines.

According to federal prosecutors, the defendants – Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Joshua Hartfield, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke – entered a home on Jan. 24 in Braxton, near Jackson, without a search warrant.

For nearly two hours, the officers physically and sexually assaulted Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker while screaming racial slurs at the handcuffed men, according to court documents.

Dedmon then stuck a pistol in Jenkins’ mouth in a “mock execution” that went wrong when he pulled the trigger, court records showed. Jenkins’ jaw was shattered and his tongue lacerated.

Monday’s guilty pleas were entered as part of a global plea agreement, according to the Rankin County Court clerk, in conjunction with the federal case. The men will serve their sentences in the two cases concurrently.

‚ÄúToday, a strong message has been sent: Abuse of power will not be tolerated in Mississippi,” Attorney General Lynn Finch said in a statement on Monday.

The Richland Police and Rankin Count Sheriff’s Departments did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeffrey Reynolds, an attorney for Daniel Opdyke, said by email that state sentencing would take place after the federal sentencing hearing on Nov. 16.

(Reporting by Rachel Nostrant in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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