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A Group of Mississippi Cops Terrorized Residents for More than Two Decades Almost Entirely Unchecked

A number of deputies within the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department in Mississippi got away with abusing people for years, almost entirely unchecked.

Five deputies from the department, who called themselves the “Goon Squad” for their willingness to use excessive force, pleaded guilty to torturing and sexually assaulting Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, two Black men, during a raid in August 2023.

But that was only the culmination of years of violence. Court documents and incident reports previously reviewed by Business Insider showed two of the officers involved, Christian Dedmon and Hunter Elward, were also present at the deaths of two other Black men in 2019 and 2021.

Business Insider also successfully sued the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department in 2022 for records related to the death of three people held in their custody and discovered that at least five people died in the custody of the sheriff’s Departmentduring an 8-month period in 2021.

The judge sided with Business Insider in March after Business Insider’s lawyers argued that the records sought should be made public under Mississippi’s public records law.

The sheriff’s department argued unsuccessfully that the records were “investigative reports,” which are not public. The department said the records could not be turned over until the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation had finished its inquiry into the deaths.

“This ruling cements that law enforcement agencies are subject to our state’s public records act — the same as any other state agency,” Paloma Wu, an attorney for Business Insider, said at the time.

And now, a new report from The New York Timesuncovered several other instances of abuse, often at the hands of the same group of sheriff’s deputies.

Reporters for The New York Times and Mississippi Today reviewed hundreds of pages of sheriff’s office reports and court records and interviewed dozens of people who say they saw or experienced torture at the hands of the sheriff’s department’s narcotics unit over the course of two decades.

Deputies assaulted people during drug raids

The witnesses interviewed by The Times described violence and abuse by the deputies that sometimes went on for hours and appeared intended to strike terror into the victims, according to the report. At least 12 of the 17 cases described in the report began after a suspect was set up by a confidential informant. In six cases, sources said the deputies threatened to continue hurting them until they disclosed the location of drugs.

According to the report, Brett McAlpin, a former chief investigator for the department, was connected to at least 13 of the arrests and was described by witnesses as leading the raids. Christian Dedmon, a former narcotics detective, was also involved in eight incidents, the report says.

Rick Loveday, a former Hinds County sheriff’s deputy, told The Times that Rankin deputies even assaulted him during a raid on his home in 2018. McAlpin arrested Loveday after Loveday says he violently assaulted him during the raid, accused him of consorting with drug dealers, and ordered him to leave town, according to The Times.

“Brett McAlpin came in my house, accused me of things I didn’t do, beat my ass, stomped my ass, sat on my chest where I couldn’t protect my head and punched me in the face,” Loveday told the outlet.

When Loveday told McAlpin that he was taking blood thinners and the blows could cause him serious injury, he told The Times that McAlpin continued to hit him.

“Every time he punched me, he said ‘I, don’t, give, a, fuck,'” Loveday said. “He didn’t care if I died.”

Loveday said he fled the state over fear that police would target him again.

“If they did that to me, how many other people have they done it to?” Loveday told The Times.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who was reelected in November after running unopposed, repeatedly declined to comment when reached by The Times. When told that several high-ranking deputies were involved in the arrests that sparked accusations of abuse, he replied, “I have 240 employees, there’s no way I can be with them each and every day.”

A spokesperson for the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department did not return a request for comment from Business Insider.

“Goon Squad” officers present during multiple deaths

Incident reports and court documents obtained by Business Insider previously connected two of the deputies, Christian Dedmon and Hunter Elward, to the deaths of two Black men in 2019 and 2021. In one of those reports, Elward wrote that he punched Damien Cameron at least three times and tased him three times before his death.

Monica Lee, Cameron’s mother, told Business Insider that deputies knelt on her son’s back for more than 15 minutes even as he complained that he could not breathe. The Mississippi state medical examiner found Cameron’s cause of death inconclusive, according to Lee.

A Mississippi grand jury declined to press chargesagainst Elward and other deputies involved in the beating due to insufficient evidence in October 2022. Lee told Business Insider that she didn’t understand the jury’s decision because the evidence of the beating was “in his face.”

Elward and Dedmon were also present during the police shooting of Pierre Woods in February 2019, according to court records. In 2021, Vanessa Barrett and Dris Mitchell, two women who have children with Woods, filed a lawsuit against Bailey and more than a dozen other officers who were there when police shot Woods.

Court documents filed in August noted that Elward and Dedmon were defendants in the case and had since been fired from the sheriff’s department due to their convictions in the torture case. A federal judge denied Bailey immunity from discovery in the lawsuit in March. Bailey appealed the decision, and a federal appeals court denied his appeal in October, court documents show.

The sheriff’s department reached an undisclosed settlement agreement with Woods’s loved ones in October after the judge rejected Bailey’s appeal, according to appeals court records.

Source: Yahoo News