Six former law enforcement officers from Mississippi, known as the “Goon Squad,” have pleaded guilty to civil rights charges related to a horrifying racist assault on two Black men during a home raid. The defendants, consisting of five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and an ex-Richland police officer, appeared in federal court as court documents were unsealed revealing the disturbing details of the incident.
On January 24, without a warrant, the officers forcibly entered the home of Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. The victims were handcuffed, subjected to electric shocks from stun guns, beaten, and assaulted with a sex object during a brutal and dehumanizing 90-minute ordeal. The assault reached its peak when one of the officers placed a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and fired, causing severe injuries that included a cut tongue, broken jaw, and an exit wound through his neck.
Shockingly, the officers chose not to provide immediate medical attention to Jenkins and Parker. Instead, they engaged in discussions to create a “false cover story” to conceal their misconduct, and also planted and tampered with evidence. Court documents revealed that the officers raided the home based on a White neighbor’s complaint about Black individuals staying with a White woman who owned the house. Racist slurs were used by the officers during the raid, further exacerbating the repugnant nature of the assault.
Jenkins and Parker, identified by their initials in the documents, subsequently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rankin County in June, seeking a staggering $400 million in damages for the traumatic incident they suffered. The officers fittingly bestowed upon themselves the nickname “Goon Squad” due to their proclivity for using excessive force. Their actions were done with the explicit intention to avoid reporting their misconduct.
The Justice Department initiated a civil rights investigation in February, which led to the charges against the former law enforcement officers. In a subsequent development, Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced on June 27 that all five deputies involved in the assault had either been terminated or resigned. The announcement was met with relief and satisfaction from the victims’ attorneys, who viewed it as a long-overdue step towards justice.
Malik Shabazz, one of the attorneys representing Jenkins and Parker, celebrated the terminations as a crucial move on the path to addressing one of the most appalling law enforcement tragedies in recent memory. However, Shabazz went on to call for Sheriff Bailey’s resignation or removal, claiming that he had previously supported the bloodshed that occurred under his leadership in Rankin County. Trent Walker, another lawyer working on behalf of the victims, emphasized the significance of the terminations, given the unprecedented nature of the firings in the county.
Additionally, it was revealed that off-duty former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield participated in the raid, resulting in his subsequent firing. The criminal charges filed against the six defendants were based on a criminal information document, obviating the need for a grand jury’s vote.
The heinous assault on Jenkins and Parker stands as a chilling reminder of the urgent need to address systemic issues within law enforcement and combat racial violence. The guilty pleas of the former officers mark an important step towards accountability, although the wounds inflicted on the victims and their community may never fully heal.