Ex-police officer given 20-year prison term for involvement in Mississippi torture case

Former Mississippi police officer Hunter Elward has been sentenced to 20 years for his role in torturing two black men in their own home.

Elward is set to be the first of six officers to receive their sentences this week.

In August, the group admitted guilt for federal civil rights offenses.

Elward will be sentenced first, followed by the other five individuals: Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jerffrey Middleton, Daniel Opydke, and Joshua Hartfield.

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Local media reported that US District Judge Tom Lee referred to Elward’s crimes as “egregious and despicable” on Tuesday.

The accused individuals are potentially facing lengthy prison sentences as they have been charged with several serious offenses. These charges include conspiracy against rights, obstructions of justice, deprivation of rights under colour of law, discharge of a firearm under a crime of violence, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors claim that the officers, who are all white and referred to themselves as the ‘Goon Squad’, entered the residence of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker in response to a report of suspicious activity in the town of Braxton, located in Rankin County.

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Witness: Mississippi police victims and their families gather outside the court prior to the sentencing.

Elward expressed his apology to Mr. Jenkins during the court proceedings.

Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Parker have strongly advocated for the harshest possible sentences to be given to the ex-officers.

“It has been an extremely difficult time for me, as well as for us,” Mr. Jenkins shared with the Associated Press. “We are remaining optimistic while also making necessary preparations for any potential challenges that may come our way.”

Three out of the six officers involved in the case have also admitted their guilt in relation to a separate incident that involved a 28-year-old white victim. The specific details of this incident remain unclear at this time.

The New York Times, Mississippi Today, and the Associated Press conducted further investigations and discovered that the incident in 2023 was just one example of a long-standing pattern of violent police misconduct.

The investigation by The Associated Press discovered that some of the officers were involved in at least four other violent incidents, resulting in the deaths of two individuals.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who employed the officers, is currently dealing with a separate lawsuit worth $400 million. The lawsuit accuses him of neglecting to adequately train the officers.

Mr. Bailey has requested the dismissal of the lawsuit and, after months of remaining silent, has pledged to make changes within the department following the officers’ guilty pleas in August.

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