Six Mississippi officers plead guilty to torturing 2 Black men

By Brad Brooks and Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Six white former Mississippi law enforcement officers pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal civil rights crimes for brutally assaulting two Black men earlier this year, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors said the six officers sexually and physically assaulted two handcuffed Black men for more than two hours during a Jan. 24 raid on a Braxton, Mississippi, home for which they had no warrant. The officers carried out mock executions on one of the men and shot him in the face, critically injuring the man.

As the victim was bleeding on the floor, the former officers did not provide medical aid, but instead gathered outside the home to devise a false cover story and took steps to corroborate it, including by planting a gun and destroying surveillance video, the Justice Department said.

The officers pleaded guilty to 16 felonies including civil rights conspiracy, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence and conspiracy to obstruct justice, among others. As part of their federal pleas, the men are also scheduled to plea guilty to state charges on Aug. 14, federal prosecutors said.

Both Black men were repeatedly shocked with Tasers, called racial slurs, made to strip naked, and sexually abused with a pistol and a dildo, prosecutors said.

The officers then tried to burn the clothes of the victims in an attempt to cover up their crimes and planted methamphetamine in the house.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a written statement “the¬†defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims, egregiously violated the civil rights of citizens who they were supposed to protect.”

Five of the men who pleaded guilty are former sheriffs deputies for Rankin County and they include Hunter Elward, 31; Christian Dedmon, 28; Brett McAlpin, 52; Jeffrey Middleton, 46; and Daniel Opdyke 27. The sixth person who pleaded was Joshua Hartfield, 31, a former police officer in Richland, Mississippi.

All of the officers were fired or resigned in recent weeks.

The Justice Department began its investigation into the case in February.

The two Black men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, filed a $400 million federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County in June over the case.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; editing by Donna Bryson and Chris Reese)