Published on: Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Two former law enforcement officers who were part of a self-styled “Goon Squad” that tortured, sexually assaulted and beat residents of a Mississippi county were given hefty prison sentences on Tuesday for brutally attacking two Black men last year (article available here).

A federal judge ordered Hunter Elward, who shot one of the victims in the mouth, to serve 20 years in prison. Jeffrey Middleton, a former lieutenant who supervised the Goon Squad, was sentenced to nearly 18 years.

Elward broke down in tears as he turned to face Eddie Parker, 36, and Michael Jenkins, 33, and apologized for what he had done to them. As Mr. Elward left the podium, Mr. Parker stood up and said that he forgave him.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Jenkins, the man Mr. Elward shot in the face during what was described as a mock execution, said that he did not forgive Mr. Elward. “If he wouldn’t have gotten caught, he would still be doing the same thing,” Mr. Jenkins said.

Four other officers will face sentencing this week in the federal courthouse in Jackson. All of them pleaded guilty this summer to federal civil rights offenses related to their brutal treatment of Mr. Parker, Mr. Jenkins and a white man, Alan Schmidt, who was assaulted in a separate incident in December 2022.

The group of six burst into a Rankin County home without a warrant and assaulted Jenkins and Parker with stun guns, a sex toy and other objects. Elward admitted to shoving a gun into Jenkins' mouth and firing in a "mock execution" that went awry.

Once inside, they handcuffed Jenkins and his friend Parker and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup over their faces. They forced them to strip naked and shower together to conceal the mess. They mocked the victims with racial slurs and shocked them with stun guns.

After Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth, they devised a coverup that included planting drugs and a gun. False charges stood against Jenkins and Parker for months.

Last November, The New York Times and Mississippi Today published an investigation revealing that for nearly two decades, deputies in the Rankin County sheriff’s department, many of whom called themselves the Goon Squad, would barge into homes in the middle of the night, handcuff people and torture them for information or confessions.