(NEW YORK) — Rankin County, Mississippi, residents and activists have called for the removal of the county sheriff after the sentencing of his deputies, who were involved in the torture and sexual abuse of two Black residents, was delayed for a second time.
“If our leadership is not in order, the system cannot be in order,” said Tasha Parker co-chair of the Local Organizing Committee, a local activist organization.
The Rankin NAACP chapter along with the Local Organizing Committee and Rankin residents held a press conference Jan. 15 after a second delay in the sentencing of six former law enforcement officers who were convicted of assault in August 2023.
Sentencing for Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, Jeffrey Middleton, Hunter Elward, Daniel Opdyke, and Joshua Hartfield was meant to begin on Jan. 16 but was postponed until March 19. This marks the second time the sentencing has been delayed by the judge.
The press conference began with a call for the removal of Sheriff Bryan Bailey and the sentencing of the six men who tortured Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, as well as those involved in the 2021 death of Damien Cameron, who was another Black man killed by Rankin County Sheriff’s deputies. Elward, one of the officers charged in the Jenkins and Parker assaults, was involved in Cameron’s death during a police killing in Rankin County in 2021.
“Today we have with us organizations all over the state of Mississippi and all over this country that are standing in solidarity with the Michael Jenkins family, that stand in solidarity with the Eddie Parker family,” said Kareem Mohamed, chair of the Local Organizing Committee. “And all those victims in Mississippi that has been victimized by the Goon Squad over the years.”
On Jan. 24, 2023 five Rankin County deputies and one Richland Police Department officer entered the residence where Jenkins and Parker were staying without a warrant. They entered the residence of Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins, which resulted in the two men being beaten, sexually assaulted with a sex toy and shocked with Tasers for roughly 90 minutes while handcuffed, according to court documents obtained by ABC News.
For residents in Rankin County, this behavior is far too common from those who are entrusted to “protect and serve.”
“I also have a nephew who just come to me on Christmas Day, told me the exact same thing,” Prisicilla Sterling, cousin of Emmett Till, said. “A gun was placed in his [her cousin’s] mouth, his lips were busted and he had a ring, a black ring from a gun being pushed into his socket.”
The community expressed feelings of disappointment and frustration by the continued delay of the sentencings and plan on protesting economically if the sentences are deemed too light.
“If this continues on, we will begin to shut these doors down,” Mohammed said, “We will not spend our money where people do not care.”
On Aug. 3, 2023 the six men in question pleaded guilty to a total of 16 federal charges. These charges included conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.
“Six defendants, five former members of the Rankin County, Mississippi, Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) – chief investigator Brett McAlpin, 52, narcotics investigator Christian Dedmon, 28, Lt. 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 United Department of Justice said in a statement.
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