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US 'Goon Squad' officer jailed for 20 years over racist attack

By AFP

March 20, 2024 10:52 AM


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A former Mississippi policeman who carried out a brutal attack on two Black men with fellow white officers who called themselves the "Goon Squad" was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison.

Hunter Elward, four other former members of the Rankin County Sheriff's Department and a former member of the Richland Police Department pleaded guilty in August to multiple offenses.

Elward, 31, who shot one of the men in the mouth during the attack, was the first member of the group to be sentenced on charges that included civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice.

US District Judge Tom Lee sentenced Elward to 241 months in prison, according to court documents.

Jeffrey Middleton, 46, a former lieutenant in the sheriff's department, was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement after the sentencing, saying the Justice Department "will hold accountable officers who violate constitutional rights, and in so doing, betray the public trust."

"These defendants will spend 20 years and 17.5 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn an oath to protect," Garland said.

"These defendants kicked in the door of a home where two Black men were residing, handcuffed and arrested them without probable cause, called them racial slurs, and punched, kicked, tased, and assaulted them," he said.

According to the Justice Department, Elward, Middleton and the other four officers -- Brett McAlpin, Christian Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke and Joshua Hartfield -- used a sex toy, Tasers and a sword in an hours-long attack on Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker.

All six acknowledged that while responding to a report of suspicious activity on January 24, 2023, they entered the house without a warrant and began a sustained and unprovoked attack on Jenkins and Parker.

Elward at one point removed a bullet from the chamber of his gun and forced his weapon into Jenkins' mouth before pulling the trigger, the Justice Department said.

"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."

As the critically injured Jenkins lay bleeding, the officers set about fabricating evidence to justify their actions, including planting a gun and drugs.

Jenkins survived the shooting and was in court Tuesday for Elward's sentencing along with Parker.


AFP


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