Six former Mississippi police officers to be sentenced in federal assault case

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 5:07 AM

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Six former law enforcement officers who prosecutors say called themselves the “Goon Squad” are expected to be sentenced this week after they pled guilty last year to U.S. civil rights charges for brutally assaulting two Black men, including shooting one in the mouth.

In hearings starting on Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Mississippi, the six white men could each face at least two decades in federal prison and hefty fines over several counts including deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice.

Five of the men were Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and one was a police officer in Richland, Mississippi.

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, 2023, in Braxton, Mississippi, 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.

“Daniel has accepted responsibility for his actions and failures to act,” Opdyke’s attorneys said in a statement. He “has admitted he was wrong, and feels deep remorse for the pain he caused the victims.”

Attorneys for the other men were not immediately available for comment.

Each will have a separate sentencing hearing, starting with Elward and Middleton on Tuesday. Opdyke and Dedmon are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, and Hartfield and McAlpin on Thursday.

The guilty pleas in federal court in August were entered as part of a larger agreement that included guilty pleas to state charges. A date has not yet been set for the sentencing in the state case.

The men will serve their sentences in the two cases concurrently.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Donna Bryson and Bill Berkrot)