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‘Been Knowing These Men Almost a Lifetime’: Mississippi Activists Call for Sheriff Over ‘Goon Squad’ That Tortured Black Men to Step Down, Rejects Narrative That He Was Unaware of Abuse

Activists in Rankin County, Mississippi, are calling for the Department of Justice to continue a federal probe into a local law enforcement department and the sheriff at its helm.

Members from several different civil rights organizations have come together urging for an investigation to pluck out more bad officers and to get Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey to resign, according to WLBT.

Mississippi Goon Squad
Members of the Rankin County Sheriff’s “Goon Squad” pleaded guilty to charges connected to torturing Black men. (Photo: Twitter/ @Phil_Lewis_)

At an Aug. 10 press conference, community leaders strongly criticized former law enforcement officers — Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Daniel Opdyke, and Richland K9 police officer Joshua Hartfield — who pleaded guilty to federal crimes against two Black men, Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Parker on Jan. 24.

Related: These Acts are Egregious’: Mississippi Cops Accused of Torturing Two Black Men Before Shooting One In the Mouth In Bizarre Raid Fired After $400M Excessive Force Lawsuit Filed

The officers pleaded guilty to federal charges involving assault, torture, illegal search, and concealing evidence.

Community members condemned “The Goon Squad” for their actions, especially Elward, who admitted to shooting Jenkins in the mouth during the warrantless raid.

The leaders believe these men are part of a larger culture in local law enforcement and that more bad cops are still with badges. They also believe Bailey is being disingenuous when he says that he didn’t know this type of abuse of power was happening in his ranks.

“Sheriff Bailey, I know your voice was cracking last week, buddy, and you were sitting there and crying, he said he didn’t know anything about it, ‘I didn’t know nothing about it.’ I’d be a fool to think that,” said John Barnett, the founder of the organization True Healing Under God and a spokesperson for the two men that were harmed by the deputies.

Angela English, president of Rankin County’s chapter of the NAACP, also said she does not believe that the sheriff was unaware of how his deputies were behaving.

“You’ve been knowing these men almost a lifetime, or you’ve been knowing them for several years, however, you want to explain it, and you didn’t know that they were capable of this, that in of itself is a lie. You have received several complaints about these individuals. They have been involved in other incidents,” English said.

Kareem Muhammad, a member of the Local Organizing Committee of Mississippi, said the “mere fact that” the sheriff didn’t know is why they’re demanding that he be immediately “relieved of your duty.”

A white neighbor informed Deputy McAlpin that “several Black males” were living with a white woman nearby, according to an indictment document.

McAlpin reached out to Dedmon, who then messaged some of the Goon Squad members — a group within the sheriff’s office — renowned for their readiness to use force during arrests.

“Are y’all available for a mission?” Dedmon texted and ordered them to ensure “no bad mugshots,” meaning not to scar their faces but beat their bodies.

Sentencing dates for the former cops are currently set for mid-November, according to Mississippi Today.

But the activist said the six facing charges are not enough.

“We got them fired, I’d be a fool to think there weren’t some more out there. … It’s a squad, so We are coming to disassemble, dismantle, and terminate the ‘Goon Squad,’” Barnett hammered to the media, hoping the Justice Department takes note.

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