In a startling turn of events, six former law enforcement officers from Mississippi have pleaded guilty to charges relating to a racist assault on two Black men. The officers, who referred to themselves as the “Goon Squad,” made their pleas in federal court as civil rights charges were unsealed on Thursday. The incident has come to light following an extensive investigation by the Associated Press, which revealed a pattern involving these deputies and their violent encounters with Black men.
According to court documents, the harrowing incident occurred on January 24 when the officers forcibly entered a home without a warrant. Inside, they handcuffed the two victims, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, proceeding to repeatedly stun them with a taser and ruthlessly beat them over a span of approximately 90 minutes. Shockingly, one deputy placed a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and fired, resulting in severe injuries that included a broken jaw, a wounded tongue, and an exit wound in his neck. Despite the gravity of the situation, the officers callously denied Jenkins the necessary medical attention, opting instead to conspire on the creation of a false cover story while tampering with evidence.
The officers targeted the house in Braxton based on a complaint from a white neighbor, alleging that Black people were staying with the white woman who owned the property. Adding to the distressing nature of the assault, the officers used racist slurs against the victims.
While the victims are identified by their initials in the court documents, Jenkins and Parker have courageously come forward to publicly discuss the horrifying incident. In June, they filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County seeking $400 million in damages. Unsurprisingly, these officers designated themselves as the Goon Squad due to their alarming propensity for excessive force and their brazen attempts to avoid accountability.
The Justice Department initiated a civil rights probe in February after the allegations made by Jenkins and Parker started gaining traction. Shortly after, Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced on June 27 that all five deputies involved in the January 24 episode had either been terminated or resigned. Subsequently, it was revealed that Joshua Hartfield, a former Richland police officer, also took part in the raid while off-duty and was subsequently fired.
The charges against the officers were brought in federal court through a criminal information, which describes the basis for bringing criminal offenses against the defendants, making an indictment unnecessary.
As this shocking case continues to unfold, it serves as a glaring reminder of the dire need for police accountability and an end to racial injustice. The guilty pleas by the former officers are a small step towards justice for Jenkins, Parker, and countless others who have suffered at the hands of those who should have upheld the law.