Deputies accused of abusing Black men are fired by Mississippi sheriff amid federal probe

Published 5:09 am Wednesday, June 28, 2023

All five Mississippi deputy sheriffs who responded to an incident where two Black men accused the deputies of beating and sexually assaulting them before shooting one of them in the mouth have been fired or resigned, authorities announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes months after Michael Corey Jenkins and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker said deputies from the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department burst into a home without a warrant. The men said deputies beat them, assaulted them with a sex toy and shocked them repeatedly with Tasers in a roughly 90-minute period during the Jan. 24 episode, Jenkins and Parker said.

Jenkins said one of the deputies shoved a gun in his mouth and then fired the weapon, leaving him with serious injuries to his face, tongue and jaw. The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department after the episode.

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Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey announced Tuesday that deputies involved in the episode had been fired, and some had already resigned. He would not provide the names of the deputies who had been terminated or say how many law enforcement officers were fired. Bailey would not answer additional questions about the episode.

“Due to recent developments, including findings during our internal investigation, those deputies that were still employed by this department have all been terminated,” Bailey said at a news conference. “We understand that the alleged actions of these deputies has eroded the public’s trust in the department. Rest assured that we will work diligently to restore that trust.”

Bailey’s announcement also follows an Associated Press investigation that found several deputies who were involved with the episode were also linked to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries. Deputies who had been accepted to the sheriff’s office’s Special Response Team — a tactical unit whose members receive advanced training — were involved in each of the four encounters.

Deputies said the raid was prompted by a report of drug activity at the home. Police and court records obtained by the AP revealed the identities of two deputies at the Jenkins raid: Hunter Elward and Christian Dedmon. It was not immediately clear whether any of the deputies had attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Jason Dare, an attorney representing the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department, said the department knows of five deputies who conducted the Jenkins raid. Jenkins and his attorney have said six deputies were at the home. All five identified by the department were either fired or resigned.

There is no body camera footage of the episode. Records obtained by the AP show that Tasers used by the deputies were turned on, turned off or used dozens of times during a roughly 65-minute period before Jenkins was shot.

Jenkins and Parker have also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and are seeking $400 million in damages. In a statement Tuesday, Malik Shabazz, an attorney representing Jenkins and Parker, celebrated the firing of the officers and called for criminal indictments of deputies by the state attorney general and the Justice Department.

“The firing of the Rankin County Mississippi Sheriff’s deputies involved in the torture and shooting of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker is a significant action on the path to justice for one of the worst law enforcement tragedies in recent memory,” Shabazz said. “Sheriff Bryan Bailey has finally acted after supporting much of the bloodshed that has occurred under his reign in Rankin County.”