‘Goon Squad’ officers jailed for ‘despicable’ torture of two black men

Two former Mississippi sheriff’s deputies who were members of a group calling itself “the Goon Squad” have been handed lengthy prison sentences for their part in torturing two black men.

Hunter Elward, 31, was jailed for 20 years, and Jeffrey Middleton, 46, was sentenced to 17-and-a-half years on Tuesday during back-to-back proceedings at a federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, according to the US Justice Department.

They were two of six officers who burst into a house in Braxton, Mississippi, without a search warrant and assaulted Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker with stun guns, a sex toy and other objects.

 from top left, former Rankin County sheriff's deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield appearing at the Rankin County Circuit Court.
File pic: AP
(From top left) Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke and Joshua Hartfield. File pic: AP

It followed a complaint to the sheriff’s office from a white neighbour that two black men were staying with a white woman at the address and that they had seen “suspicious behaviour”.

The victims were held captive and handcuffed during a two-hour ordeal which ended with Mr Jenkins being shot in the mouth. He suffered a lacerated tongue and broken jaw.

Michael Corey Jenkins speaks outside the federal courthouse.
Pic: AP
Michael Corey Jenkins outside the federal courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi. Pic: AP

Michael Corey Jenkins, who along with Eddie Terrell Parker had been victims of torture by then six Mississippi Rankin County law officers in 2023.
Pic: AP
He was shot in the mouth. Pic: AP

Once inside the house, they handcuffed Mr Jenkins and his friend Mr Parker and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup over their faces. They then forced them to strip naked and shower together to conceal the mess.

They mocked the victims with racial slurs and shocked them with stun guns.

One of the sheriff’s deputies, Christian Dedmon, assaulted them with a sex toy.

After Elward shot Mr Jenkins in the mouth in a “mock execution” that went wrong when he pulled the trigger, the officers devised a cover-up.

This included destroying surveillance video, an attempt to burn the victims’ clothes, and planting drugs and a gun.

False charges stood against the two victims for months.

Eddie Terrell Parker speaks outside the federal courthouse.
Pic: AP
Eddie Terrell Parker was one of the victims of the attack. Pic: AP

The officers warned them to “stay out of Rankin County and go back to Jackson or ‘their side’ of the Pearl River”, court documents stated, referencing an area with higher concentrations of black residents.

The former officers, all of them white, referred to themselves as “the Goon Squad” because of their willingness to use excessive force, according to papers filed in the case.

In a statement on Tuesday, attorney general Merrick Garland condemned the “heinous attack on citizens they had sworn an oath to protect”.

Before sentencing Elward and Middleton, US district judge Tom Lee called their actions “egregious and despicable”.

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Elward and Middleton pleaded guilty with the other four former law enforcement officers last summer to multiple felony offences, including civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under colour of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

Daniel Opdyke, 28, and Dedmon, 29, are set to appear separately before Judge Lee on Wednesday for sentencing.

Brett McAlpin, 53, and a former Richland police officer, Joshua Hartfield, 32, are due to be sentenced on Thursday.

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

The defendants are to serve their federal and state sentences concurrently.

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