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Six White Mississippi “Goon Squad” Cops Get Lengthy Prison Sentences for Torturing Black Men

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In Mississippi, six former sheriff’s deputies have been sentenced to between 10 and 40 years in prison for raiding a home and torturing, shooting and sexually abusing two Black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, in January 2023. The six former deputies, all of whom are white, called themselves the “Goon Squad” and have been linked to at least four violent attacks on Black men since 2019. Two of the men attacked and tortured by the group subsequently died. To discuss the case and the verdict, we’re joined by Eddie Parker and attorneys Malik Shabazz and Trent Walker. “Never have we seen this many police officers sentenced to this kind of time in one week,” says Shabazz, who calls the verdict “historic.” Jenkins, Parker and Shabazz are currently suing the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department over its track record of civil rights violations and racist targeting of Black residents.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We end today’s show in Mississippi, where six former law enforcement officers have been sentenced to between 10 and 40 years in prison each for raiding a home and torturing two Black men. The officers, all of whom are white, belonged to a group that described itself as the “Goon Squad.”

In January of 2023, the six officers burst into a home, then beat, handcuffed, waterboarded and tasered Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. The officers also sexually abused them with an object while shouting racial slurs. One of the officers put a gun in Jenkins’s mouth for a mock execution and pulled the trigger. The bullet lacerated his tongue, broke his jaw, exited through his neck. The officers then planted drugs at the scene in an attempt to cover up their act.

The attack occurred in the majority-white Rankin County, which is about 20 miles away from majority-Black Jackson, Mississippi. Some of the officers were also sentenced for their role in a separate assault just two weeks earlier, when another member of the Goon Squad repeatedly tased a man and put his genitals in his mouth. While the charges focused on these two cases, The New York Times and Mississippi Today have revealed that deputies in the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department have for decades barged into homes, handcuffed people, tortured them for information or confessions.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement Thursday saying, quote, “The depravity of the crimes committed by these defendants cannot be overstated, and they will now spend between 10 and 40 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn to protect,” AG Merrick Garland said.

We go now to Jackson, Mississippi, where we’re joined by Eddie Parker, as well as his attorney Malik Shabazz, who is with Black Lawyers for Justice.

Malik Shabazz, let’s begin with you. Can you talk about the courtroom scene and the sentencing of these sheriff’s deputies and police officers for what they did?

MALIK SHABAZZ: Good morning to the Democracy Now! audience and Ms. Goodman.

The scene inside of this courtroom in the United States district court for the sentencing of the Goon Squad was absolutely incredible. And you wouldn’t believe it if it was a movie. I mean, to see the big, bad, intimidating, murderous Goon Squad, to see all of them there, to see all of them in court, crying tears out of their eyes and begging the judge, begging Eddie and Michael, in this packed room, was absolutely incredible. But it was well deserved, because so many other families and victims have had to shed those tears and go to jail for a long time behind their crimes and lies. I mean, Amy, it was absolutely incredible. And never have we seen this many police officers sentenced to this kind of time in one week. And it was awesome.

AMY GOODMAN: Malik Shabazz, talk about how this self-described Goon Squad operated.

MALIK SHABAZZ: OK. Well, they operate worse than criminals. I mean, they handcuff people, like they did to Eddie. When they handcuff, they don’t use warrants. They beat, they tase, they take their private parts out of their pants on another victim. They used dildos on Eddie and Michael, at least attempted to use them on Eddie and Michael. They waterboard, like U.S. troops did in Iraq. They put guns to heads, guns in mouths. They shoot in mouths. I mean, they are — everything you have ever heard that police may do, they did. They throw down guns. They carry throw-down guns. They plant guns. They steal videotapes.

And this is why they have received the longest and strongest sentences for any police brutality case in the history of the United States of America, and even the world. This week, the 132 years given to the Goon Squad defendants represent the longest criminal sentences ever given out, collectively and individually, to police officers in the history of the United States of America. And they deserve every day and hour of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Eddie Terrell Parker, your feelings in the courtroom, after having been so seriously brutalized and tortured, to see these officers put away for years?

EDDIE TERRELL PARKER: It was a moment in history. I mean, it was satisfying. I enjoyed every second of sitting and watching it all, you know, come to reality.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Michael Jenkins’ mother, Mary Jenkins, who earlier in the week spoke outside the federal courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi.

MARY JENKINS: When I first found out that my son was shot, and that he was shot in the mouth, I was almost certain that he was dead. I called Rankin County, and at first they wouldn’t let me speak with anyone. They said they were in a meeting. And when I finally spoke with someone, I asked him if my son was alive. And he said, “As far as I know.” I said, “When can I see him?” He said, “When we let you see him.” This is a crying mother on the phone trying to inquire about her son. He said, “Michael is our property.” That’s what that deputy told me on the phone. My son’s shot in the mouth, and he’s telling me that Michael is their property.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Mary Jenkins, Michael Corey Jenkins’ mother. Malik Shabazz, will Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker also civilly sue for — not only personally these men, but, clearly, one of the things that their lawyers argued, the lawyers for the sheriff’s deputies and the officers, is that there was this permissive atmosphere that allowed them to operate in this way. Will they be suing the state or the city?

MALIK SHABAZZ: No, we are suing Rankin County and its Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who was supposed to be running a department that supervised and monitored its officers. Unfortunately, during the sentencing hearings, it came out that Brett McAlpin, who is the chief investigative officer, which is similar to internal affairs — the criminals ran the department in Rankin. And that’s why they are facing a very large civil judgment and civil trial in this case. This is a pattern and practice of the Rankin County Police Department to routinely ignore constitutional rights violations.

I want to say one thing, and then I want you to hear from Mississippi attorney Trent Walker. He’s with me. He’s from Rankin. But Eddie Terrell Parker gave the most powerful victim’s testimony in these six days — I mean, these three days of sentencing these six defendants. He was very powerful. Mr. Mel Jenkins, Michael Jenkins’ father, was very influential in these hearings. But I would like you to hear a further answer on your question from Mississippi attorney Trent Walker, who is from Rankin County. Here he is.

TRENT WALKER: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Trent Walker.

TRENT WALKER: Hello.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can — go ahead. If you can talk about the significance of what’s happened? And does this open up hundreds of cases, going back decades?

TRENT WALKER: It should open up hundreds of cases, going back decades, anything that these six have touched, in point of fact, given the testimony that they themselves gave. And they used terms like there was a “culture of violence.” More than one of them said that, and that violence and brutality was expected for you to work on the night shift, which they did not refer to as the night shift. They talked about it as the “Goon Squad shift.” And so, yes, anything that they touched should go back, be reexamined, and really, just as a matter of course, overturn, because when you find that they’re willing to plant evidence and falsify reports — you know, they had Michael Jenkins charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and with possession of drugs. Michael could have been sentenced to up to 38 years in prison. And as a criminal law practitioner in Rankin County, I can tell you, he would not have been slapped on the wrist, and he would have served many years in prison for those charges that they falsified and put on him.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca speaking last year, announcing the federal charges against the former officers for the attack.

DARREN LAMARCA: These defendants committed heinous acts of violence against handcuffed victims when they terrorized under color of law. As reflected in the informations unsealed today, these men sexually abused their victims, repeatedly tased them, tortured them, all under the authority of the badge, which they disgraced. … But not only did they brazenly commit these acts, but after inflicting serious bodily injury by firing a shot through one of the victims’ mouths, they left him lying in a pool of blood, gathered on the porch of the house to discuss how to cover it up. What indifference. What disregard for life.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I’m wondering if either Trent Walker or Malik Shabazz can talk about the state charges, also federal charges, what this means. We’re talking about officers sentenced not only for the attack that we’re describing today on Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, but for two weeks before, when they barged into someone’s home. I think this was Dedmon. And how has he been described? The judge said he committed the most “shocking, brutal and cruel acts imaginable.” Attorney Shabazz, you’ve described Dedmon as “oppressive” and “sick.” Talk about these acts that you know about that they did, that they were sentenced for in addition to the case of Michael and Eddie.

MALIK SHABAZZ: Well, about a month before, they had targeted a person named [Alan] Schmidt. And [Alan] Schmidt allegedly had offended Dedmon because he had allegedly stolen something from one of Dedmon’s friends. So, the Goon Squad gangsters, they had his tag, and they had the tag tracers, and they had an order out. They had an order out that if they found him driving anywhere, without any probable cause to stop him, that they were going to stop him and deal with him.

They found him one night. They called Dedmon, who came, off duty, on duty. And then Dedmon, who was on this night shift — now, I want to remind you that according to the sentencing hearings, you could not work the night shift in Rankin County Sheriff’s Department without being a part of the Goon Squad. And overall, you could not rise or be promoted into the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department without participating in violence and being violent at night with the Goon Squad. And every one of the defendants said that they were doing OK in their careers until they were inducted into this gang called the Goon Squad. OK?

So, Dedmon himself — it’s so much sickness here. But any officer who you see that will whip out his private parts and attempt to put it in the mouth of a defendant —

TRENT WALKER: On the side of the interstate.

MALIK SHABAZZ: — on the side of the road, take his gun out, shoot it by the side of his head to make him believe he’s going to be killed, pull his pants down while handcuffed — this came out in court — pulled the man’s pants down while handcuffed, grabbed his genitals, told him how — the size of his genitals, then dry humped him. I say that it came out in court that Dedmon dry humped the man after they took him to a private house in another jurisdiction. I mean, you wouldn’t believe it if you saw it in a movie, but I’m imagining it will be that one day. But, you know, in Mississippi —

AMY GOODMAN: Well —

MALIK SHABAZZ: I must give — I’ve got to say this. We have a Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, that is headed by a Black woman, and Kristen Clarke takes her job seriously. And her Southern Division attorneys have pursued and made history in this area. And Judge Thomas Lee — they thought that Judge Thomas Lee down here in Mississippi would not do justice. And, oh, how he has set a standard and put police officers on notice all over America that if you do the crime, you’re going to do the time, just like anybody else.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I just want to say, Eddie Terrell Parker, you and Michael Corey Jenkins, amazingly brave in coming forward and describing what happened to you, which seems to have broken open all of these investigations right now. I want to thank civil rights attorney Malik Shabazz and Trent Walker with Black Lawyers for Justice and Eddie Parker, who was tortured by the Goon Squad. Thank you so much, joining us from Jackson, Mississippi.

And that does it for our show. Very happy belated birthday to Tami Woronoff. I’m Amy Goodman. Our website is democracynow.org. Thanks so much for joining us.

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