Deputies weep as Mississippi judge sentences them for torturing Black men

Jackson, Mississippi – Sentencing hearings for former Mississippi deputies involved in a horrific case of police brutality unfolded in a federal court as tears were shed and apologies were made. Christian Dedmon, 29, received a 40-year prison sentence while Daniel Opdyke, 28, was sentenced to 17.5 years by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee. The judge condemned the cruelty exhibited by the white officers, who broke into a home and tortured two Black men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, along with a white man during a traffic stop.

During the emotional proceedings, Dedmon expressed remorse and acknowledged the pain he inflicted upon the victims, while Jenkins struggled to speak, conveying through his lawyer that Dedmon’s actions were the most depraved of all the attackers. Following this, two other former deputies, Hunter Elward, 31, and Jeffrey Middleton, 46, received prison sentences of nearly 20 years and 17.5 years, respectively, for their roles in the brutal attack as well.

The group of officers, who referred to themselves as the “Goon Squad,” pleaded guilty last August to breaking into a home without a warrant and torturing Jenkins and Parker, prompted by a racist call for extrajudicial violence. The violence included pouring milk, alcohol, and chocolate syrup over the victims’ faces, forcing them to strip naked, and assaulting them with racial slurs and stun guns. Elward, who shot Jenkins in the mouth during a “mock execution,” admitted to planting drugs and a gun in an attempt to cover up the crime.

Opdyke, one of the former deputies, tearfully apologized to the victims in court, acknowledging the transformation into a “monster” on that fateful night. The judge highlighted the egregious and despicable nature of their actions, referring to them as shocking, brutal, and cruel. Additional sentencing for the remaining former deputy and police officer involved in the incident is scheduled for the following day.

The Associated Press’s investigation prior to the charges being announced by federal prosecutors revealed a pattern of violence by some of the deputies against Black men since 2019, which included fatal encounters and lasting injuries. The officers involved in the attack, now facing prison time, initially stuck to a cover story but eventually admitted to their heinous acts against Jenkins and Parker, leading to their guilty pleas.

Attorney General Merrick Garland denounced the officers’ actions as a heinous attack on citizens they were sworn to protect. The victims were subjected to torture, racial insults, and excessive force, reflecting a disturbing culture of misconduct within the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. The victims have since filed a civil lawsuit against the department, seeking justice for the cruelty they endured.