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Last two officers sentenced in...

Last two officers sentenced in ‘Goon Squad’ abuse case

By: Jeremy Pittari - March 21, 2024

This combination of photos shows, from top left, former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, Daniel Opdyke and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield appearing at the Rankin County Circuit Court in Brandon, Miss., Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. The six white former Mississippi law officers pleaded guilty to state charges on Monday for torturing two Black men in a racist assault that ended with a deputy shooting one victim in the mouth. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

  • McAlpin sentenced to more than 27 years, Hartfield given just more than 10 years.

The last two former law enforcement officers involved in the ‘Goon Squad’ case that has garnered state and national attention were sentenced on Thursday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. 

U.S. District Court Judge Tom S. Lee handed former Rankin County Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Brett McAlpin a 27.25 years, or 327 months sentence, and former Richland Police Officer Joshua Hartfield just over 10 years, or 121 months for their roles in an attack on two Black men in January of 2023. The Judge said he decided not to give Hartfield the maximum requested from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 151 months, due to his lesser involvement in the incident and a lack of history of excessive force. 

The case involved the warrantless entry of a Braxton home, on January 24, 2023, by six law enforcement officers, including Hartfield, McAlpin, Rankin County Sheriffs Department deputies Hunter Elward, Daniel Opdyke and Christian Dedmon along with Lt. Jeffrey Middleton. Once inside the residence, the officers preceded to beat and brutalize the two men inside, Eddie Parker and Michael Corey Jenkins.

Text messages secured as part of the investigation show the officers planned the illegal entry to the home, including a route to avoid being captured on surveillance cameras thought to be present. The texts also warned against bad mugshots, an instruction interpreted as suggesting any violence done to Parker and Jenkins should not be to the face. The messages were shared via a messaging application called WhatsApp, which is an encrypted platform. 

The victims were handcuffed, beaten, tased and sexually assaulted. They also suffered humiliation when milk, syrup and other food condiments were thrown on them. Dedmon and McAlpin are alleged to have used racial slurs while telling Parker and Jenkins that they needed to “go back to their side of the river,” a reference to predominantly Black Jackson.

After the initial assault, the victims were forced to strip and shower together to cover up the abuse. Deputy Dedmon fired two shots of his weapon during the incident in an attempt to intimidate the victims. Deputy Elward also fired his gun at least two times while holding it inside Jenkins’ mouth; one was a dry fire, but the second trigger pull discharged a bullet that caused lacerations to Jenkins’ tongue and broke his jaw before exiting his neck. According to his victim statement, Jenkins can no longer sing or play the drums and it hurts when he eats because of those injuries.

While Jenkins lay on the floor bleeding from his gunshot wound, the six men devised a cover story and worked to place false charges on the victims using drugs seized from an unrelated case and a gun that did not belong to either victim. The false charges lodged against Parker and Jenkins were later dropped. Hartfield was described as playing a part in the coverup process, including disposing of the soiled clothing from the victims, taking the hard drive from the home’s surveillance system and other acts.

During Thursday’s court proceedings, Hartfield’s attorney, Robert Lindgold, argued that his client was not part of the text thread that started the events that evening and only became involved because he happened to be riding along with Dedmon at the time the text message thread started. While Lindgold contended Hartfield was not a member of the Goon Squad, did not use racial slurs and did not personally assault Jenkins and Parker, Judge Lee pointed to the fact that Hartfield still did nothing to stop the incidents that night and participated in the coverup. Hartfield got the least time of any of six defendants sentenced. He also was not ordered to pay restitution.

McAlpin was described today as appearing in plain clothes, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, without his taser or service weapon on the night of the incident. According to the victim statement from Jenkins, McAlpin was seen walking around the scene and giving orders to the other officers on what to do to Jenkins and Parker. He was given the full sentence requested by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Judge Lee explained the sentence by noting that McAlpin was the highest ranking officer on the scene that night and there was a record of his use of excessive force that pre-dated the January 2023 incident. McAlpin, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement, was due to retire in December. McAlpin will be required to pay $79,500 in restitution to the victims, with $48,000 going to Jenkins and $31,500 going to Parker. 

Hartfield and McAlpin apologized to the victims and their families at the end of their sentencing hearings, but neither victim indicated in court if they accepted those apologies. In fact, Parker and Jenkins left the courtroom before Hartfield took the podium to give his statement. It should be noted that Hartfield’s hearing was the last of the day, and week.

As for the other sentences dolled out this week, Elward was given 20 years, Middleton was given 17.5 years, Opdyke received 17.5 years and Dedmon received the most at 40 years. “Beside McAlpin and Middleton, largely as their role as superior officers, you, Mr. Dedmon, committed the most egregious acts on Parker, Jenkins and Schmidt. The most shocking, brutal and cruel acts imaginable,” Lee said before handing down the judgement of 40 years on Wednesday.

Malik Shabazz, the attorney for Parker and Jenkins, celebrated the end of a long week of sentencing hearings Thursday afternoon in front of the courthouse.

“We just heard Joshua Hartfield from Richland, the judge showed him some mercy. He was hanging out with Christian Dedmon of the Goon Squad when he decided to engage in some Goon Squad activities. He was given 10 years, and even 10 years is stiff because as other cases have been cited, many Black people have been murdered and the police officers only got nine months, 12 months or 15 months. So still 10 years as the least sentence that has been handed out is still significant. One hundred and thirty nine years total for all six defendants!” Shabazz emphasized. 

Shabazz also called for Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey to step down or be removed from his position by the Board of Supervisors. Dr. Robert James, the President of the Mississippi State Conference for the NAACP, also called for change.

“These proceedings really reveal to this state that there is corruption in our law enforcement. It’s undeniable. So often…our citizens cry out about police brutality. Today, we know there’s police brutality,” said Dr. James, in front of the courthouse Thursday. “If we’re going to get rid of corruption we need to overhaul, there needs to be oversight, overhaul in Rankin County Police Department, Sheriffs Department, to make things work better for all our citizens.”

About the Author(s)
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy: