Third ex-police officer sentenced in Mississippi torture case

A third former Mississippi police officer has been sentenced to 17.5 years in prison for torturing two black men in their own home.

Daniel Opdyke, 28, is one of six officers to have been prosecuted over the January 2023 assault.

Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker were beaten, shocked with stun guns and sexually assaulted by the officers.

Another officer, Christian Dedmond, is expected to be sentenced later on Wednesday.

Five are former Rankin County sheriff deputies while the sixth, Joshua Hartfield, was with the Richland police. They called themselves the Goon Squad, and all are being sentenced this week for their role in the assault.

During his sentencing, Opdyke cried in court and told the two victims that he had been reflecting on “the monster I became that night”.

“The weight of my actions and the harm I’ve caused will haunt me every day,” he said.

As he handed down his sentence, US District Judge Tom Lee said the former officer may not have known what it meant to join the Goon Squad, but he did know it involved using excessive force.

“You were not a passive observer, you actively participated in that brutal attack,” Judge Lee said.

Former officers Hunter Elward and Jeffrey Middleton were the first to be sentenced on Tuesday.

Elward, who shot one of the victims in the mouth during a botched mock execution, was sentenced to 20 years.

Middleton, the leader of the so-called Goon Squad, was sentenced to just over 17 years.

In a statement after their sentencing on Tuesday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland called their crimes “heinous.”

The former officers pleaded guilty to federal civil rights offences in August.

They were charged with conspiracy against rights, obstruction of justice, deprivation of rights under colour of law, discharge of a firearm under a crime of violence, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The officers – all of whom are white – were responding to a call about suspicious activity in the Rankin County town of Braxton when they entered the home of Mr Jenkins and Mr Parker without a warrant.

The two men were then handcuffed and assaulted for hours, where they were repeatedly beaten, shocked and mocked with racial slurs.

Mr Jenkins was shot in the mouth by Elward, cutting his tongue and breaking his jaw.

Three of the six officers, including Dedmond, have also pleaded guilty to a separate assault involving a 28-year-old white victim.

Subsequent investigations by the New York Times, Mississippi Today and the Associated Press found that the 2023 incident was part of a larger pattern of violent police misconduct spanning decades.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, for whom the officers were working, is facing a separate $400m (£314m) lawsuit for allegedly failing to properly train the officers.

Source: BBC

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