Six former Mississippi law enforcement officers recently pleaded guilty to federal charges related to some shocking and disgusting crimes committed against American citizens. The revelations about these heinous actions caused widespread alarm and outrage throughout the community and raised even more concerns about racially motivated atrocities committed by members of law enforcement.
The Justice Department charged these officers for violating the civil rights of two men, after an incident in which they beat, tortured, and sexually assaulted their victims:
Warning: the following contains graphic content
Two federal criminal informations were unsealed today charging six former Mississippi law enforcement officers with a total of 16 felonies stemming from the torture and physical abuse of three Rankin County residents in two separate unrelated incidents. Those 16 felonies include civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.
In federal court this morning, six defendants, five former members of the Rankin County, Mississippi, Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) – Chief Investigator Brett McAlpin, 52, Narcotics Investigator Christian Dedmon, 28, Lieutenant Jeffrey Middleton, 46, Deputy Hunter Elward, 31, Deputy Daniel Opdyke, 27 – and one former member of the Richland, Mississippi, Police Department – Narcotics Investigator Joshua Hartfield, 31 – pleaded guilty to all charges against them.
The defendants admitted that on Jan. 24, without a warrant or any exigent circumstances, they kicked in the door and entered a home in Braxton, Rankin County, Mississippi where two Black men, M.J. and E.P., were residing. The defendants handcuffed and arrested the men without probable cause to believe they had committed any crime, called them racial slurs, and warned them to stay out of Rankin County. Further, the defendants punched and kicked the men, tased them 17 times, forced them to ingest liquids, and assaulted them with a dildo. During the incident, Dedmon fired his gun twice to intimidate the men.
At the conclusion of the incident, Elward surreptitiously removed a bullet from the chamber of his gun, forced the gun into M.J.’s mouth and pulled the trigger. 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.
After torturing the two men, the officers did not bother to offer medical aid. Instead, they went outside of the home and began concocting a scheme to cover up their actions. They planned to plant a gun on one of the men, destroy surveillance footage, falsifying drug evidence, file fake reports, and eventually charge one of the victims with crimes he did not commit. The officers even went so far as to threaten to kill other officers who witnessed their actions, if they spoke out.
The officers are also expected to plead guilty to state charges as well.
This is not the first time officers in the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) have been accused of abusing citizens. Reports have detailed other, alleged incidents in which its officers have abused specifically black men over the past four years. At least one other individual said an officer shoved a pistol into his mouth. Another was killed when a deputy kneeled on his neck.
This horrific case has sparked calls for reform in the county’s police department. One of the sticking points is the fact that Rankin County police officers are not required to wear body cameras, which casts further suspicion on law enforcement in the area. Scenarios like this easily lead to the perception that they would rather not have their actions documented on video footage because they know many of their officers are up to no good. However, this situation could be rectified sooner rather than later, if House Bill 757, which would require all officers to wear body cameras, were to pass.
It is not yet clear what sentences the officers will receive. Some of the charges to which they pleaded guilty carry up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. It is also possible that some of these individuals could be facing life sentences as well. The sentencing is scheduled for November.
This case is the latest illustrating how important it is for police officers to be held accountable when they use their positions to abuse citizens. Unfortunately, in most cases, officers who engage in this behavior do not receive punishment, which further compounds the problem. After all, if these officials know they won’t face consequences for their actions, why wouldn’t they continue overstepping their boundaries?
However, it is a good sign that, in this case, these thugs wearing badges will be facing punishment for a multitude of monstrous actions against American citizens. This story marks a significant step in the right direction toward justice and accountability in government. There is still much work to be done in terms of cracking down on police engaging in abhorrent and corrupt behavior. This case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of holding law enforcement’s feet to the fire when some of its members mistreat Americans.