More Trouble for Sheriff Whose Officers Formed 'Goon Squad'

Undersheriff in Rankin County, Mississippi, resigns after allegations emerge about Bryan Bailey
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 14, 2023 12:00 PM CDT
Updated Oct 5, 2023 11:10 AM CDT
Police 'Goon Squad' Gets Its Due
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, right, speaks to an attendee at an employer engagement forum in Jackson, Miss., Nov. 4, 2021.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
UPDATE Oct 5, 2023 11:10 AM CDT

The undersheriff of the Mississippi sheriff's department whose former officers pleaded guilty to torturing Black men resigned Monday, days after allegations surfaced about his boss. A joint investigation by Mississippi Today and the New York Times revealed the local district attorney investigated Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey for illegally subpoenaing the phone records of his girlfriend and a state representative in 2014. The sheriff's "right-hand man" made no mention of that in a statement Tuesday, per Mississippi Today. Paul Holley, who served as the department's in-house legal counsel up until four months ago, said he'd worked to improve the office's "credibility." "I continue to remain an unabashed supporter of Rankin County law enforcement," he added.

Aug 14, 2023 12:00 PM CDT

Six white former Mississippi law officers pleaded guilty to state charges on Monday for torturing two Black men in a racist assault. The same six pleaded guilty to federal charges last week. Prosecutors say some of the officers nicknamed themselves the "Goon Squad" because of their willingness to use excessive force, including this attack, which ended with a deputy shooting one victim in the mouth, per the AP. In January, the officers entered a house without a warrant and handcuffed and assaulted the two men with stun guns, a sex toy, and other objects. The officers mocked them with racial slurs throughout a 90-minute torture session, then devised a cover-up that included planting drugs and a gun, leading to false charges that could have sent one victim to prison for years.

Their conspiracy unraveled months later, after one of them told the sheriff he had lied, leading to confessions from the others. Each one agreed to sentences recommended by state prosecutors ranging from five to 30 years, although the judge isn't bound by that. Time served for the state charges will run concurrently with federal sentences they are scheduled to receive. Each could get longer prison sentences in federal court in November. The men include five former Rankin County sheriff's deputies—Brett McAlpin, Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton, and Daniel Opdyke—and a police officer from the city of Richland, Joshua Hartfield.

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The victims—Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker—arrived together. They sat in the front row, feet away from their attackers' families. Monica Lee, the mother of Damien Cameron, another Black man who died in 2021 after Elward punched and tased him during an arrest, embraced both men. Dedmon and Elward, who kicked in a door, pleaded guilty to additional charges of home invasion. Elward also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, for shoving a gun into the mouth of one of the victims and pulling the trigger, in what authorities called a "mock execution." CNN has an in-depth look at the abuse the men endured and how the officers plotted to cover things up. "Are y'all available for a mission?" read the group text that preceded the assault.

(More Mississippi stories.)

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