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Mississippi sheriff rolls out reforms after deputies and an officer plead guilty to torturing 2 Black men

<i>Rogelio V. Solis/AP</i><br/>Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey
Rogelio V. Solis/AP
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey

By Ryan Young, Pamela Kirkland and Chelsea Bailey, CNN

(CNN) — On a Tuesday night in January, five sheriff’s deputies from Rankin County, Mississippi, and a police officer from a neighboring department forced their way into the home where Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins were living in Braxton, Mississippi.

The six White law enforcement officers called themselves the “Goon Squad,” according to a lawsuit filed this summer, “because of their willingness to use excessive force and not to report it.”

That night, Parker and Jenkins would become the “Squad’s” latest victims.

The two Black men were tortured, tased, and say they were sexually assaulted for hours. Jenkins and Parker said they were called the N-word and other racial slurs throughout the beating.

Then a deputy put a gun in Jenkins mouth and pulled the trigger, the lawsuit says.

The bullet lacerated his tongue, broke his jaw and then exited out of Jenkins’ neck, according to the lawsuit. He later told CNN officers left him lying in a pool of his blood.

Then, according to court documents, they tried to cover it up.

In August, former deputies Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward, Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton, and Daniel Opdyke and ex-police officer Joshua Hartfield all pleaded guilty to both federal and state charges stemming from the January 24 incident. They now await sentencing.

As Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey campaigned for re-election, news of the brutal torture of Parker and Jenkins made national headlines and rocked the local community.

Bailey ran unopposed and was re-elected earlier this month. On Tuesday, the department announced a series of changes to their patrol policies and procedures in the wake of the Goon Squad’s revelations.

In a news release, Sheriff Bailey said deputies and jailers with the department have completed a training session taught by the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit, an internal affairs investigator had been recruited to “help foster impartiality and fairness in our reviews,” and the department also updated its “compliments/complaints process.”

But for Angela English, Rankin County NAACP President, the changes do not go far enough.  Even after Bailey’s election victory, English began collecting signatures to call for his resignation. She told CNN many in her community will not be satisfied until the sheriff is out of office.

The January 24 incident came to light after Jenkins and Parker filed a $400 million federal civil lawsuit. The lawsuit names several deputies as well as Sheriff Bryan Bailey. Many of the claims in the lawsuit were reflected in the federal charging document. Bailey has filed for qualified immunity in that lawsuit.

“Bryan Bailey failed to supervise, monitor, discipline or reprimand the Goon Squad defendants,” said Malik Shabazz, lead attorney for the two men.  “Rankin County has rewarded Bailey, rather than rein him in.”

Sheriff Bailey said in Tuesday’s news release his department took “immediate action” to remove the officers “once the true facts were discovered.” 
Bailey told CNN he will continue to work to repair the damage of the so-called Goon Squad.

“I had a group of thugs wearing badges that got out and went and committed a home invasion against two innocent men,” Bailey said. “It was completely criminal.”

Parker and Jenkins previously told CNN no one had reached out from the sheriff’s department. Now, Bailey said he’s willing to apologize face-to-face.

“Eventually, I’d like to apologize to him, I’ve apologized to him on camera and everything like that. Now, I have seen him one time in person,” Bailey said.

“I’m sorry for what happened to him, but again, that was not a deputy sheriff that did that to him. That was a criminal.”

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