Six white Mississippi law enforcement officers have pleaded guilty to federal and state charges after brutally physically and sexually assaulting two Black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker.
The six white officers were with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department and the Richland Police Department. The federal felony charges 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. The state charges include home invasion, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to hinder a prosecution, and aggravated assault.
According to AP News reports, on January 24, 2023, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker were at the home of a friend of Mr. Jenkins’s, a white woman in a predominantly white neighborhood. A white resident in the neighborhood phoned Deputy McAlpin to alert him to the presence of Black men staying on the property whom she described as acting suspiciously. Deputy McAlpin texted several colleagues—including Officer Opdyke—who referred to themselves as “the Goon squad” because of their “willingness to use excessive force and not to report it,” according to prosecutors. An AP investigation later found that the officers had been involved in several prior acts of violence against Black men since 2019, resulting in at least two deaths.
Without a warrant, the assembled officers barged into the home, where they found Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker. For 90 minutes, the officers tortured the two men. The officers repeatedly yelled racial slurs at the men, shocked them with stun guns, poured milk, chocolate, and alcohol over their faces, assaulted them with a sex toy, and beat them with kitchen tools and a metal sword. One officer shot Mr. Jenkins by putting a gun into his mouth and firing. Mr. Jenkins suffered a broken jaw and has lasting difficulty speaking, eating, and drinking.
As Mr. Jenkins lay bleeding, the officers assembled on the porch of the house to plan their coverup. They destroyed taser cartridges, surveillance footage, and shell casings. They submitted falsified evidence to a crime lab, falsified reports, planted drugs on the men, and discussed planting other evidence, including a gun. They took the injured Mr. Jenkins into another room and concocted a story about him reaching for a weapon while uncuffed for interrogation. They later lied to investigators about their actions and warned the two men to stay out of Rankin County.
As EJI has documented, extrajudicial violence and terrorism against Black men in particular was often predicated on allegations stemming from fear of interracial relationships. Nearly 25% of lynchings between 1877 and 1950 stemmed from allegations arising out of fear of interracial sex and extending to any action by a Black man that could be interpreted as seeking or desiring contact with a white woman. Such violence was not only aimed at maintaining strict social segregation and racial hierarchy, but oftentimes at driving out Black residents from white communities altogether.