Rankin Co. sheriff: My officers lied to me about January incident
RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - After six former Rankin County officers plead guilty Thursday to the torture and sexual abuse of two Black men, the sheriff of the county says the officers lied to him about the events that unfolded the night of January 24.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon hours after the pleas were announced, Sheriff Bryan Bailey first read a statement, saying, “Based on the facts in their guilty pleas, all former deputies lied to me the night of the incident.”
Those former deputies being Brett McAlpin, 52, Jeffrey Middleton, 45, Christian Dedmon, 28, Hunter Elward, 31, and Daniel Opdyke, 27, who all plead guilty to their charges on Thursday. Joshua Hartfield, 31, a former Richland officer, also plead guilty to his charges stemming from that January night at a home in Braxton, Mississippi.
The officers’ charges include conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights under the color of law, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.
In January, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Parker were tortured by the six officers. This included Jenkins and Parker being repeatedly tased and being sexually assaulted. Jenkins was also shot in the mouth by Officer Elward.
“I truly have tried my best to make the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office one of the top departments in Mississippi,” Sheriff Bailey read from his prepared remarks Thursday afternoon. “This incident and the crimes of these individuals has been devastating not only to the victims, but also to the sheriff’s office and the hundreds of men and women that work here.”
Bailey would take questions after the reading of his statement, with the sheriff quickly restating that his officers lied to him on January 24, saying he only learned “partial truths” about the January event towards the end of June.
He said that when arriving to the scene of the home on January 24, he saw that two of the officers involved did not have their body cameras. Bailey said he asked the officers, “Where is your body camera?” The officers told the sheriff they didn’t need to wear it, because, they said, it was an undercover narcotics operation.
According to their then-body camera policy, body cameras did not need to be worn during undercover narcotics operations.
It would later be discovered that the meth found inside the home that night had been planted by the Rankin County officers.
In an initial press release by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety sent on January 25, it said that an officer-involved shooting had occurred in Rankin County when deputies were conducting a narcotics investigation and a subject had displayed a gun towards the deputies.
Like the meth found at the scene, the gun had also been planted by the officers.
“They used my policy against me,” Sheriff Bailey said.
This development was covered by WLBT News in March, with our investigation uncovering that no video evidence existed of the January encounter between Rankin County deputies and Jenkins and Parker.
Bailey would, at one point, become emotional when asked how he felt about his officers lying to him. “I’m sick to my stomach,” he said. “[...] I’ve tried to have a safe county. They have robbed me of all of this... This is a perfect example of why people don’t trust the police.”
When Bailey was asked where he thought the deputies were the night of January 24, Bailey said there was a storm that day and that he didn’t know they were out working until he heard about an officer-involved shooting.
It was learned Thursday that several of the deputies involved in the January incident were part of an unofficial group known as the “Goon Squad,” and were known in the department for using excessive force. Bailey said he had first heard of this “Goon Squad” term just last week.
“How does this fly under the radar?” Bailey was asked during the press conference. “Is there a cultural problem in the sheriff’s office?”
In response, Bailey said he didn’t think there was until this crime was brought to light. “Obviously I need to make people more accountable.” Body cameras are now being regularly checked, he added.
Bailey frequently spoke to how “unbelievable” the actions of his officers were, at one time calling them “criminals who did a home invasion.”
Now, it seems that all six officers could face decades behind bars.
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