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Former Rankin County officers plead guilty after torturing and abusing 2 Black men

(Left to right, top to bottom) Brett McAlpin, Daniel Opdyke, Jeffrey Middleton, Joshua Hartfield, Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon

Five former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and one former Richland police officer have pleaded guilty to state charges in an ongoing case into their abuse and torture of two Black men.

The six officers were sentenced in the Rankin County Circuit Court for crimes stemming from allegations from Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker that the officers tortured and sexually assaulted the men on January 24, 2023, all while trying to frame them for crimes they did not commit.

During their Monday court appearance, each of the former officers — Brett McAlphin, Jeffrey Middleton, Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Daniel Opdyke, and Joshua Hartfield — had duct tape on the back of their jumpsuits to prevent the public from knowing where they are currently being held.

State charges

Brett McAlpin

McAlpin, 52, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to hinder prosecution in the first degree. The judge accepted McAlpin’s plea, but set sentencing at an unspecified future date. The maximum sentence is 15 years for hindering prosecution in the first degree and five years for conspiracy to hinder prosecution.

Jeffrey Middleton

Middelton, 45, pleaded guilty to charges of hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. Middleton will be sentenced at an unspecified date in the future. Prosecutors say he was the supervisor of the second shift and gave it the infamous title of “Goon Squad.” The attorney general’s office recommends he faces 15 years with seven years suspended for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy.

Christian Dedmon

Dedmon, 28, pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and home invasion with intent to terrorize, as well as conspiracy to hinder prosecution. The former deputy fired his weapon out the back door of the Braxton residence to intimidate Jenkins and Terrell. Dedmon also poured liquids, including chocolate syrup and milk onto the victims and later attempted to clean up the scene of the abuse. The officer also filed a false police report, charging the victims with crimes they did not commit. The AG recommended 15 years with five years suspended for home invasion and five years for conspiracy.

Hunter Elward

Elward, 31, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a firearm, criminal home invasion to terrorize, and conspiracy. The deputy placed his gun into Jenkins’ mouth after secretly taking a bullet from the chamber and pulling the trigger. The unloaded gun clicked but did not fire. He then racked the slide, intending to dry-fire a second time, but the gun discharged when he pulled the trigger again. The gunshot left Jenkins with a broken jaw, lacerated tongue, and severe wounds in his neck. Elward faces 20 years with five years suspended for aggravated assault, 15 years with five years suspended for home invasion, and five years for conspiracy.

Daniel Opdyke

Opdyke, 27, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to commit hindering prosecution in the first degree. The former deputy also sexually abused the two men by forcibly inserting a device that was mounted onto a BB gun into their mouths. He was also responsible for tasing the victims and kicking them in the ribs. Opdyke faces 15 years with 10 years suspended for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy.

Joshua Hartfield

Hartfield, 31, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution in the first degree and conspiracy to hinder prosecution. The former Richland police officer was the only member involved in the January incident that did not work for the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office. Hartfield was involved in beating and using his taser to stun the two Black men. He faces 15 years with 10 years suspended for hindering prosecution and five years for conspiracy.

Backstory

According to statements by Jenkins and Parker, the deputies forcibly entered the Braxton residence without presenting a warrant on January 24, 2023.

Both men were immediately handcuffed before Dedmon, Elward, Hartfield, and Middleton began stunning Jenkins and Parker with Tasers, with the first taser being used at 10:04 p.m. Documents show tasers being turned on, off, or used over a dozen times for approximately 65 minutes after the first taser was fired.

In total, the incident is estimated to have lasted for around two hours, with Dedman said to have waterboarded the two men with milk, chocolate syrup, and alcohol while Elward held Jenkins and Parker down.

Reports also state that Opdyke orally assaulted Parker and Jenkins with a sex toy before Dedmon threatened to anally rape the two with the object.

Court documents later revealed that Dedmon poured grease over Parker’s head while Elward threw eggs at both men. Parker and Jenkins were then ordered “to strip naked and shower off to wash away evidence of abuse” before Dedmon shot a bullet into the front yard.

Elward then placed the gun in Jenkins’ mouth after secretly taking a bullet from the chamber and pulled the trigger. The unloaded gun clicked but did not fire.

He then racked the slide, intending to dry-fire a second time, but the gun discharged when he pulled the trigger again. The gunshot left Jenkins with a broken jaw, lacerated tongue, and severe wounds in his neck.

Immediately after, the deputies left Jenkins bleeding on the floor to discuss a cover story and dispose of any evidence involved in the shooting. A gun was then planted on Jenkins while officers destroyed the home’s surveillance video footage, spent shell cases, and taser cartridges.

Jenkins was later transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), where his injuries were treated for several weeks.

The officers charged Jenkins with aggravated assault of a police officer and possession of a controlled substance, while Parker was given two misdemeanor charges for disorderly conduct and possession of paraphernalia. Documents show that the deputies planted methamphetamine on the two men before making the arrests.

In addition to filing false reports, the deputies are also being accused of submitting fraudulent drug evidence to the crime lab, making false statements to investigators, and pressuring witnesses to stick to the cover story.

Shortly after, the two men filed suit against the six deputies and demanded $400 million in punitive and compensatory damages from the sheriff’s department.

Jenkins and Parker also accused the officers of attempted murder, false imprisonment, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and six counts of deprivation of civil rights.

Editor’s note: Monday’s court appearance was solely for state charges. All six officers are still facing a plethora of federal charges. Sentencing is set for early November. 

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