“Horrendous”: Black Men Tortured by White Mississippi Police “Goon Squad” React to Guilty Pleas
Written by GRB on 09/08/2023
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.
A warning to our audience: This next segment contains descriptions and images of police violence.
We turn now to Mississippi, where six white former police officers, who called themselves the “Goon Squad,” have pleaded guilty to raiding a home and torturing two Black men earlier this year, after first trying to cover up their actions. Some of the officers face life in prison.
On January 24th, court records show the deputies raided a home in Braxton, Mississippi, after a white neighbor of one of the officers called in to complain there were Black men staying there. The officer texted the others, quote, “Are y’all available for a mission?”
That night, without a warrant, the officers burst into the home, handcuffed, beat, tasered the two men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, also sexually abused them with a sex toy while shouting racial slurs. One of the officers put a gun in Jenkins’ mouth for a “mock execution” and pulled the trigger. The bullet lacerated Jenkins’ tongue, broke his jaw, exited through his neck.
This is U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca last week announcing federal charges against the former officers for the attack.
DARREN LAMARCA: 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: After the attack, Michael Corey Jenkins was actually charged with a felony, based on methamphetamine the officers said they found in the raid. But records show that was a lie, and the charge was dropped. In fact, the deputies planted drugs to devise an excuse for the raid and also stole surveillance video from the house. Their body cameras were off.
Court documents said the officers used the name Goon Squad, quote, “because of their willingness to use excessive force and not to report it.” The Associated Press found the deputies were linked to at least four violent attacks on Black men since 2019 — two of the men died.
For more, we’re joined by Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, as well as Malik Shabazz, a civil rights attorney with Black Lawyers for Justice, who’s representing them.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Malik, let’s begin with you. Can you talk about how this case was exposed, how we saw these officers charged, and what you understand about their background, this not being the first vicious attack?
MALIK SHABAZZ: OK. Thank you for having us on. I want to say, before we get started, that Michael and Eddie will only be speaking — that they cannot speak about the specific details of what happened in that house that night, but they can talk about their reactions to the guilty verdicts and to their pain and suffering. And Michael is suffering, because half of his face is numb. And we have sentencing coming up, so we’re under certain sensitive legal guidelines. But we’re happy to be on with such a progressive audience.
This case was brought to light through the determination of Black Lawyers for Justice, of myself as the attorney for Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, and Mississippi counsel Trent Walker. From early January, we have advocated strongly and vigorously in every way, and we have worked with community activists in Mississippi and throughout the country, in order to bring the truth that is coming to light today, that these defendants — Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Middleton, Opdyke and Joshua Hartfield — that they’re called the Rankin County “Goon Squad.” They’re known in the community as the Rankin County “death squad.” This has been occurring for a long time under the leadership of Sheriff Bryan Bailey, who is a — should be the subject of criminal investigation also. And they have been getting away with this so long that they felt emboldened to act in such a radical and callous way on that night of January 24th, 2023. But it’s through persistence, it’s through intense legal advocacy, with us advocating to the U.S. Justice Department, collecting evidence and applying legal pressure and all kinds of pressure, to bring about what is now historic.
Last Thursday, these six defendants pled guilty to 14 federal criminal charges. They will plead guilty to more state charges Monday. This is the first time, Democracy Now! This is the first time that a white Mississippi police officer has ever been held criminally responsible for harming a Black person. And we know that plenty of police brutality has occurred, not only in Rankin County under Bryan Bailey, but throughout the state of Mississippi. This is a history-making moment. I’m just so sorry it had to come on the backs of the pain and the suffering, the torture and the shooting and the abuse and waterboarding of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, our clients.
AMY GOODMAN: I can’t bear to go to Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, meeting you in this way, for what you went through that horrific January night. But I’m wondering if each of you could respond to the guilty plea of these officers and what it means to you that some of them may be facing life in prison. Michael Jenkins, let’s begin with you.
MICHAEL JENKINS: I feel — I feel great that we’re finally getting justice, after months. You know, at first, they didn’t even believe us. For a while, l didn’t think they was going to even get a slap on the wrist or anything. But I feel great about it.
AMY GOODMAN: And I know it’s difficult for you to talk, with the gun in your mouth — the police shot you through your mouth, lacerating your tongue. It went through to your neck, shredding that area of your neck. I am only glad that you can be with us today. Did you think you were going to survive that night, Michael?
MICHAEL JENKINS: No, ma’am. No, ma’am. I’m still going through pain right now, my whole face numb, my mouth hurting right now, as we speak.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Eddie, Eddie Parker, if you can talk about your response to this plea deal?
EDDIE PARKER: It’s a long time coming. It’s some — I say this is also history, too, you know, coming from a long way of going through this situation with the same police officers. And pretty much, you steer clear, you know, stay out the way, so you wouldn’t end up in this situation, but ended up in this situation with a part of me, you know, staying clear. So, I’m astounded. I’m real happy that it’s finally come to a point where they’re getting a feeling of what they dish out to people, you know, day in, day out.
AMY GOODMAN: And I really misspoke, because it’s not a deal. They have pled guilty. The idea that they call themselves, Eddie Parker, that they call themselves the “Goon Squad,” your thoughts?
EDDIE PARKER: That’s the Goon Squad. That seems to be a crime organization, as well. They were — I guess they were paid to go out and, you know, to stop, but they became that theirself. I believe police and the public, you know, go hand in hand. I mean, they’re people, just like us. You know, they want to be held accountable for everything they do. They want to get, you know, this certain, I guess you say, the end-of-the-stick treatment as being the golden ones. But they’re not. They’re people, just like us. I mean, they go out, and they do, you know, the opposite of what they’re getting paid to do. I think it’s very horrendous how they can call theirself, you know, Goon Squad and still put on a badge and say they’re protecting people.
AMY GOODMAN: Malik Shabazz, your lawsuit also mentions other times Rankin County sheriff deputies used excessive force. I want to ask you about Damien Cameron, who died in 2021 after being taken into custody by the same Rankin County sheriff’s deputies who later attacked Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker. This is a clip from a WAPT news report featuring [Cameron’s] mother, Monica Lee.
ERIN PICKENS: A news release from the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office says deputies got a call about a burglary and vandalism. When they arrived, Damien was identified as the suspect. The release says as a deputy approached him, he began to fight and resist arrest. They were able to eventually get him into custody and into a patrol car.
MONICA LEE: And I’m thinking they’re taking my son to jail, so I go outside to tell my son goodbye and I love him, and I’ll be up there tomorrow. At that point, when I got to the side of the truck, my son was laying on the ground, unresponsive.
AMY GOODMAN: Monica Lee has said she believes if the sheriff had taken action against the deputies involved in her son’s death, maybe they would not have gone on to attack Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker. The lawsuit also holds Sheriff Bailey responsible for failing to properly train the deputies involved in these incidents. This is Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey speaking last week about the charges his former deputies pled guilty to.
SHERIFF BRYAN BAILEY: Based on the facts and the guilty pleas, all of the former deputies lied to me that night of this incident in January. We have cooperated fully with all outside investigating agencies to uncover the truth and bring justice to the victims. We’ve also sought assistance from outside agencies and consultants to help us in repairing our trust with the community.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey speaking last week. Malik Shabazz, the civil rights attorney who has brought the lawsuit on behalf of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, if you can respond to the sheriff and to this previous case?
MALIK SHABAZZ: Yes. First of all, I want to give honors to Ms. Monica Lee, who is the mother of Damien Cameron. Attorney Trent Walker and myself, we represent Ms. Monica Lee for the death of Damien Cameron, which occurred at the hands of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department and its officers, including Hunter Elward, the shooter, who didn’t just shoot Michael Jenkins in his mouth. He placed the gun inside Michael Jenkins’ mouth and held it for an extended period of time, almost up to a minute, before he intentionally shot Michael Jenkins in his mouth, attempting to kill him.
Yes, Ms. Lee is correct: If they would not have participated in a cover-up around Damien Cameron’s death — Damien Cameron’s death is analogous and very similar to George Floyd’s death. It was Hunter Elward and Luke Stickman who put the knees on Damien Cameron’s back and on his neck, causing trauma to his neck and causing hemorrhages in both Damien Cameron’s eyes, meaning that the compression on his neck is what led to asphyxiation and his actual cause of death. But the autopsy, mysteriously, was ruled undetermined. With all of the evidence that I’m saying and all of the gruesome photos of the neck injuries and the hemorrhages of the eyes bulging out of his head, the autopsy finding was mysteriously undetermined. The autopsy itself is missing certain information, and therefore, myself and Black Lawyers for Justice, we have our own forensic pathologists who are coming forth shortly to show you that this was homicide, and that Rankin County and Bryan Bailey refused to provide the state medical examiner with information to reach a proper conclusion, because they were all protecting the officers from criminal prosecution. Therefore, the autopsy is suspicious. The autopsy and the efforts to have a genuine autopsy, it was covered up by Rankin County. And Bryan Bailey has been a part of this. Ms. Lee is correct: If they hadn’t been trying to cover up, if Bailey hadn’t been trying to justify his officers — no, he didn’t just not train them. He has participated in acts of excessive force with his department, according to the courts. When Hunter Elward shot Pierre Woods in Rankin County on the ground, and he gunned him — and he shot him nine times with his rifle, and the man was no threat to him, Sheriff Bailey was on the scene, and a federal judge ruled that Bailey could not have qualified immunity, because he ratified and watched it all go on in person.
And so, the truth is coming out about the death of Damien Cameron and how they had the knees on his neck, like his mother has testified by affidavit to, and they had the knees on his neck that crushed the life out of Damien Cameron, and they did nothing about it. They’ve lied to us, but we’re going to bring that case. That case is coming back to life.
Rankin County is infested with white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan. They infiltrated the sheriff’s department. Bryan Bailey has known about this. Many of these criminals were on duty up until June 1st. Only through the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice leader Kristen Clarke and her Southern District in Mississippi, who have done a great job — only through their efforts has Bryan Bailey, sheriff, trying to come to some remorse. He has not even apologized to the victims. We demand that Bryan Bailey step down now. He’s a part of a pattern, a practice and a culture and a custom of terrorism by his department. We have Blacks, whites, rich, poor. They have been beaten by his officers. He has known this all along.
And the struggle continues in this case for compensation for these two suffering victims, Jenkins and Parker, but for all of the victims of Rankin County terrorism. It’s the number one county for terrorism and white supremacist infiltration. Case in point before I close, Christian Dedmon, he has — it’s coming out he has family members that have pled guilty in Mississippi to hate crimes. I mean, a lot more is going to come out about this. Rankin County is infested with white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan, and it’s in the police department.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Malik Shabazz, can you place Rankin County for us in two ways, in history and also just geographically? It’s right near Jackson, the capital?
MALIK SHABAZZ: Yes. Attorney Trent Walker says — who grew up in Rankin County, my partner, attorney Trent Walker, states that this was customary in Rankin County. They beat first, and they don’t ask questions later. They beat you, they kill you, and you are ordered not to say anything about it.
Hunter Elward, the shooter, actually pled guilty in federal court to another crime he had committed, which contained a similar fact to what he did in the home of Jenkins and Parker. When these deputies busted in to begin this torture session, Hunter Elward shot his gun off as an intimidation against Jenkins and Parker. Before he shot Michael later, he shot his gun off. Well, he pled guilty in federal court to doing the same thing to another person in Rankin County, just shooting his gun off like that.
So, what we’re saying, ma’am, is that all of these truths are going to come to light. Rankin County has done this for a long time. It’s near Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi — and I believe the county is sort of a reaction to Jackson. Jackson is in Hinds County. It’s majority Black, and there’s hostility towards Jackson. And Rankin is like a white enclave that is next to Jackson, and it’s set up almost like a political, social antithesis against Jackson. And so, they’re clearing Rankin, just 20 minutes away from Jackson, Mississippi, just like these deputies said. They didn’t want any Black men living in the area. The mere fact that there were Black men in this area, that they were going to carry out this mission and let them know that they were not welcome, and they were going to violate all laws and break in. It’s because they have determined — I believe these deputies and others in that county have determined that Rankin County is for whites, and Hinds County is for Blacks. And they’re going to enforce it, under the color of law, through violence and torture.
Not to mention, especially on this program, we cannot forget waterboarding. Waterboarding was where the United States military was condemned for using these techniques at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in the Iraq War. The military denounced this. But in 2023, incredibly, in Rankin County, these deputies — Elward, McAlpin, Dedmon, Opdyke, Middleton, Hartsfield — they actually waterboarded the two men you see now. They had them on their backs. They had them in handcuffs. They had them intimidated. And they were pouring milk, liquids and grease all over their faces in this insane interrogation and intimidation act.
Then, after they did all this — can you imagine law enforcement with dildos and sexual devices in their possession, attempting and putting it in the mouths — I hate to say this, that happened to the brothers, but we’ve got to know their pain and suffering — to take a dildo and to shove it in the mouths of handcuffed and bound men, and then — and waterboard them like that on the ground, and then hurl eggs at them, and then make them strip naked in the shower to try to clean this mess up, strip these men naked in front of these criminals? You know, it just never fails to ignite my passion, and therefore, tactically and strategically, we are after Rankin County, and we won’t let up.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with the voices of Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. How you have lived through the aftermath of this, the trauma that you have experienced, and what you want to come out of this? I mean, it looks like you are exposing an entire sheriff’s department in Mississippi. Let’s begin with Eddie Parker.
EDDIE PARKER: Well, we want justice. We want justice for everyone that has gone through this with Rankin County or gone through this because of Rankin County. We want justice for the ones that were afraid to speak up, you know, justice for the ones that can’t speak up. We want, you know, something new and better, you know, in the claim to come out of this.
AMY GOODMAN: And Michael Jenkins?
MICHAEL JENKINS: Basically the same thing, to make sure that nobody never goes through what we went through again. You know, animals don’t get treated like this. You know, I ain’t never seen no animal get treated like this.
AMY GOODMAN: Well —
MICHAEL JENKINS: Just to make sure —
AMY GOODMAN: I just want to thank you, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker, for your bravery in coming forward and telling your stories, and also I want to thank Malik Shabazz, the civil rights attorney with Black Lawyers for Justice.
Coming up, we’re going to Detroit to talk to a woman who was falsely arrested and jailed while eight months pregnant, due to faulty AI facial recognition technology. She’s the first woman to be arrested for this. Stay with us.