Shabazz: Rankin ‘Goon Squad’ guilty pleas are milestone in Mississippi justice

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Atty. Malik Shabazz

Six Rankin County law enforcement officers – five sheriff’s deputies and one Richland police officer who are identified as members of a “goon squad” hiding behind their badges of authority – confessed to 14 criminal counts in the U. S. District Court of Southern Mississippi stemming from the January 24 assault and torture of Michael Corley Jenkins and Eddie Parker. 

Both victims were repeatedly kicked, beaten, shot with stun guns, and humiliated. Jenkins also was shot in the mouth by a ringleader of the wayward officers and was left lying in a pool of blood as the officers huddled to get their false testimony together. 

“They became the criminals they swore to protect us from,”  said Southern District U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca. “Now, they’ll be treated as the criminals as they are.”

The federal sentences are due in mid-November. The state indictments are scheduled for a hearing on Monday, August 14. Meanwhile, the six confessed criminals will remain behind bars as the law works its course.

“The defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, adding they “egregiously violated the civil rights of citizens who they were supposed to protect.”


Attorney Malik Shabazz, the lead attorney for the victims and founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, planned a Zoom press conference for 11 a.m. Tuesday, but opted for Facebook Live instead. Shabazz expressed both his surprise and gratitude at how the case has proceeded so far.  

“These guilty pleas are historic for justice against rogue police torture in Rankin County and all over America,” Shabazz said. “Today is truly historic for Mississippi and for civil and human rights in America.”

“Never before in the history of wicked Mississippi has a white law enforcement officer gone to prisonfor harming a Black person,” Shabazz added. “Police officers, not only in Rankin County but in all 82 counties, have beaten the Black man and woman to a pulp with their nightsticks and they have gotten away with it.” 

Shabazz said Black Lawyers for Justice wrote the Department of Justice months ago to let them know “we are serious about this case and we advocated strongly to the USDOJ to bring about a just result.” 

The results were both surprising and welcome to the founder of Black Lawyers for Justice.

“Kristen Clarke, a Black woman over the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, who spearheaded this, along with the Southern District of Mississippi Civil Rights Division and their criminal prosecutors, did a hell of a job and are doing a hell of a job on this case,” he said.

On June 12, Shabazz and the plaintiff’s co-counsel Trent Walker of Jackson announced they were filing a $400 million lawsuit for both punitive and compensatory damages against the six men who have since pled guilty to all the charges filed against them. 

“When we filed, some people doubted us,” Shabazz said. “Some people thought this couldn’t all be true. And they were shocked to find out that on last Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi that the deputies named the Rankin County Goon Squad…have confessed to everything this lawsuit – every allegation of torture, every allegation of waterboarding. They admitted that they poured liquids, liquor, milk, and grease on their faces to try to make them believe they were drowning in order to elicit a confession. People said, ‘Oh no, that couldn’t have happened.’ They pled guilty and admitted in a bill of information that this actually happened. We told you that it was a sexual assault in our lawsuit…, police officers, law enforcement, had used a sexual device in the course of torturing two helpless and defenseless Black men.”

Eddie Parker, 35, who was the tenant at the house in Braxton, was talking to his visiting friend Michael Corley Jenkins, 32, when the six uniformed men burst into the house with Deputy Hunter Elward, one of the two named as ringleaders, firing his revolver into the wall.

“I mean, we were beaten. We were handcuffed,” Parker said during a press conference dealing with the raid and beatings. “It was traumatizing, man. It was a night of hell.”

The U. S. Attorney’s report described the most egregious part of the whole ordeal.

“At the conclusion of the incident, Elward surreptitiously removed a bullet from the chamber of his gun, forced the gun into Michael Jenkins’ mouth, and pulled the trigger,” the report reads. “The unloaded gun clicked but did not fire. Elward racked the slide, intending to dry-fire a second time. When Elward pulled the trigger, the gun discharged. The bullet lacerated M.J.’s tongue, broke his jaw, and exited out of his neck.”

The federal document also describes the conspiracy to concoct a false report about the incident.

“As M.J. (Jenkins) was bleeding on the floor, the defendants did not provide medical aid, but instead gathered outside the home to devise a false cover story and took steps to corroborate it, including: planting a gun on M.J.; destroying surveillance video, spent shell casings, and taser cartridges; submitting fraudulent drug evidence to the crime lab; filing false reports; charging M.J. with crimes he did not commit; making false statements to investigators; and pressuring witnesses to stick to the cover story. Three of the defendants admitted in court that they were members of ‘The Goon Squad,’ a group of RCSO officers who were known for using excessive force and not reporting it.”


Shabazz said the ringleaders also allegedly threatened to kill any of the officers present who dared to report the truth of what had happened.

“As the officers said in their plea, they (the ringleaders) told other officers if any of you tell about what has happened in this house…, then you will be killed,” Shabazz said.

“If they will threaten to kill their own to not reveal the dirt and the crime they are committing, what regard have they for the life of another human being on the streets of Rankin County?”

The six named in the case and who entered guilty pleas were: Elward, Brent McGalpin, Christian Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke, Jeffrey Middleton, and Richland PD officer Joshua Hartsfield.

“This is certainly good news for anybody from Mississippi and Rankin County; Simpson County; Richland, MS; or anywhere,” said Shabazz. “And this is bad news for racist cops all over the country.”


U.S. District Judge Tom Lee said sentencing will take place in mid-November. Dedmon and Elward each face a maximum sentence of 120 years plus life in prison and $2.75 million in fines. Hartfield faces a possible sentence of 80 years and $1.5 million; McAlpin faces 90 years and $1.75 million; Middleton faces 80 years and $1.5 million, and Opdyke could be sentenced to 100 years with a $2 million fine, the U.S. Attorney’s office reported.


Noted American philosopher and scholar Cornel West, a candidate for the Presidency on the Green Party ticket in 2024, is scheduled to speak at  rallies in Brandon and Jackson August 26-27.

West will be in Brandon near the Rankin County Court House on August 26 for a rally centered around Police Enforcement Justice. On August 27, West will appear at the Jackson Convention Center as part of a call to One Thousand Black Men to rally and take a stand on the important issues in Mississippi. 

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Shabazz: Rankin ‘Goon Squad’ guilty pleas are milestone in Mississippi justice

By Earnest McBride
August 14, 2023