(News4usonline) – Singer Nina Simone summed up her thoughts about the state of Mississippi and racial injustice through the lyrical marvel of one of her most famous songs in two words: Mississippi Goddam! There are probably quite a few people echoing those sentiments after what took place in Rankin County, Mississippi on Jan. 24 of this year.
That’s when members of The Goon Squad executed steps to intimidate, incite uninvited violence, and torture two Black men. What these members of The Goon Squad, all law enforcement officers, allegedly did to the Black men were so horrendous that it required federal investigators to get involved.
The six law enforcement officers, five representing the Rankin County, Mississippi Sheriff’s Office, kicked in the door of the home where the two Black men lived without provocation or a warrant.
What happens next is a virtual playbook from the Ku Klux Klan. The two Black men, identified only as M.J. and E.P., were then arrested and suffered physical abuse and verbal taunting with racial slurs being thrown at them. It gets worse.
They were punched and kicked. That’s not to mention that both men were tased 17 times, according federal charges being levied on the officers. And to wrap things up, according to a released statement on Aug. 3 by the Department of Justice, The Goon Squad used a dildo on the two Black men.
“The defendants in this case tortured and inflicted unspeakable harm on their victims, egregiously violated the civil rights of citizens who they were supposed to protect, and shamefully betrayed the oath they swore as law enforcement officers,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will hold accountable officers who abuse the public trust that is essential to public safety.”
The six officers, 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, were not finished with their abuse of their detainees.
Elward went even more rogue, shoving a gun into the mouth of M.J. and firing the weapon. When the gun produced a blank, Elward, allegedly racked the slide of the gun. This time the gun discharged. M.J. had his jaw broken and the bullet, which also shredded his tongue, and went out the side of his neck.
What follows next is all kind of wrongdoing by the officers as outlined in the federal charges. First, the officers gathered outside to come up with a story, planted a gun on M.J., produced false drug evidence to the crime lab, filed made up police reports, and charging the victim with crimes he did not commit, among other things, according to court documents.
“These former law enforcement officers have committed heinous and wanton acts of violence disgracing the badge which so many others have worn with pride and honor,” said U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi. “They violated their oaths and have become the criminals they were sworn to protect us from.”
All six officers pleaded guily to charges they were hit with. Adding to their crimes against M.J. and E.P., three of the officers were also handed additional federal charges for allegedly assaulting a white man.
“No human being should ever be subjected to the kind of torturous, traumatizing and horrific acts of violence that were carried out by these law enforcement officers,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The physical and emotional impact of their crimes resulted from a calculated, deliberate, and egregious course of conduct that required a significant response from authorities. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute law enforcement officers who violate the public trust by abusing the power given to them by virtue of their position.”
In the year 2023, it is difficult to fathom that this egregious type of violence would be heaped upon members of the public by any law enforcement agency. What those officers did to those Black men invoke the ugly memory of the torturous murder of Emmett Till, the Black teenager whose violent death in Mississippi sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
For Black Americans, two questions become paramount: Should we continue hover in fear and worry because these atrocities are still taking place in this day and age or should we applaud the progress of the federal government in prosecuting these crimes?
“Without a relationship of trust between law enforcement officers and those they swear to serve and protect,” said Mississippi State Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “Our fight for justice and against crime is doomed to fail. This brutal attack caused more than physical harm to these two individual victims, it severed that vital trust with the people. This abuse of power will not be tolerated. The Attorney General’s Office is committed to delivering justice for these victims and all Mississippians, and we are grateful for this strong partnership we have with our U.S. Attorney’s Offices and FBI Field Office. Working together, it is my hope that we can help these victims heal and restore confidence in our criminal justice system.”
Top Image Caption: Monica Lee, center, speaks about her youngest son, Damien Cameron, a 29-year-old Black man, with a history of mental illness, who died in July 2021 after being arrested by two Rankin County deputies, at a news conference, Wednesday, July 5, 2023, outside the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. The anti-police brutality activists called for the termination and prosecution of Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey for running a law enforcement department that allegedly terrorizes and brutalizes minorities. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.