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Press Release

Six Former Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Sentenced for Torturing and Abusing Two Black Men

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Six former Mississippi law enforcement officers were sentenced this week for torturing and abusing two Black men in Rankin County, Mississippi. 

Senior District Judge Tom Lee sentenced the defendants to terms in prison ranging from 10 to 40 years.

  • Christian Dedmon, 29, former Narcotics Investigator of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO), was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
  • Brett McAlpin, 53, former RCSO Chief Investigator, was sentenced to 27.25 years in prison.
  • Hunter Elward, 31, former RCSO Deputy, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
  • Jeffrey Middleton, 46, former RCSO Lieutenant, was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison.
  • Daniel Opdyke, 28, former RCSO Deputy, was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison.
  • Joshua Hartfield, 32, former Narcotics Investigator for the Richland Police Department, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“The depravity of the crimes committed by these defendants cannot be overstated, and they will now spend between 10 and 40 years in prison for their heinous attack on citizens they had sworn to protect,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “These defendants kicked in the door of a home where two Black men were residing, handcuffed and arrested them without probable cause, called them racial slurs, and punched, kicked, tased, and assaulted them. After one of the defendants fired his gun in the mouth of one of the victims, breaking his jaw, the defendants gathered outside to come up with a cover story as the victim lay bleeding on the floor. Officers who violate constitutional rights will be held accountable by the Justice Department for their crimes that harm individual victims and betray the trust of entire communities. I am grateful to the Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, the FBI Jackson Field Office, and our state partners for their outstanding work bringing these defendants to justice.”

“It is hard to imagine a more atrocious set of civil rights violations than those carried out by the defendants in this case,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “But it is also hard to imagine more important work than investigating those crimes and seeking justice for the victims. As the result of the bureau’s color-of-law investigation, which we worked in collaboration with our federal and state partners, all six pleaded guilty last August and will serve lengthy sentences for their crimes.”

“By holding these officers accountable, we are sending a clear message that law enforcement abuse of Black people, or any American, will not be tolerated in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “These six white law enforcement officers sought to dehumanize two innocent Black men through cruel, violent, and lawless abuse. The defendants didn’t count on the victims’ courage to come forward and tell the truth or the justice system to hold them accountable. The court imposed severe sentences reflecting the defendants’ savagery, including the longest federal sentence in recent years for a civil rights police misconduct case. Justice demands accountability, especially when the defendants’ actions not only scarred the victims physically and emotionally, but also harmed the entire community, stripping away their sense of security, corroding trust and respect for the police.”

“We expect our law enforcement officers to take seriously their oath to be our protectors, but these defendants instead chose to be predators on a hate-fueled power trip,” said U.S. Attorney Todd Gee for the Southern District of Mississippi. “Rather than serving Mississippi, the defendants treated it as a place where they could assault, intimidate, torture, and frame their victims at will. These violations of civil rights should serve as a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do in Mississippi and this nation to ensure that law enforcement officers are properly hired, trained, equipped, supervised, and held accountable for their actions.”

“We hold positions of trust and serve as stewards of authority for the community. Color of law violations are harmful to the victims, to the American people, and to the law enforcement community across the globe,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Maher Dimachkie of the FBI Jackson Field Office. “These six individuals violated their oaths and disgraced other law enforcement officers that carry their duties with pride and honor. We will continue to execute our duties to the highest level of ethical and moral values. We will continue to work with our community partners to rebuild and strengthen the partnership and trust in law enforcement. The FBI remains steadfast in aggressively investigating and bringing those who misuse their authority to justice.”

“The six officers who committed these heinous acts caused more than physical harm to these two individual victims; they severed the vital trust between law enforcement and the people they pledge to protect,” said Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “This abuse of power will not be tolerated. I am proud of this joint effort and shared commitment across agencies to pursue truth and justice for these victims. It is my hope and prayer that we can help these victims on their healing journey, and we can restore confidence in our criminal justice system.”

“The sentencing of the six former officers who violated their oath of office proves the effectiveness of collaboration between state and federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors,” said Commissioner Sean Tindell of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. “As we move forward, we should all work together creating new policies and oversights to help prevent these types of incidents in the future. Thank you to all parties involved for their diligent work in ensuring that justice was served for the victims.”

Last year, the six defendants pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging them with a total of 13 felony offenses, including civil rights conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.

According to court documents and the plea hearings, the defendants admitted that on Jan. 24, 2023, Dedmon sent a group message to Middleton, Elward, and Opdyke, three members of the “Goon Squad,” orchestrating a “mission” to forcibly enter a home in Braxton, Rankin County, Mississippi, where two Black men, M.J. and E.P., were residing. “The Goon Squad” is a group of RCSO officers who were known for using excessive force and not reporting it. Dedmon warned the officers that there might be surveillance cameras at the house, and told them “no bad mugshots”, meaning that the officers should use excessive force, but they should make sure not to leave any marks that would be captured in a mugshot.

Upon arrival at the home, the defendants kicked in the door and entered the home without a warrant or any exigent circumstances. The defendants handcuffed and arrested the men without probable cause to believe they had committed any crime, called them racial slurs, and warned them to stay out of Rankin County. Dedmon fired his gun twice to intimidate the men. Further, the defendants punched and kicked the men; tased them 17 times; held them down and poured liquids on their faces, forcing them to involuntarily ingest these liquids; threw eggs at them and assaulted them with a dildo. McAlpin, the senior officer on the scene, failed to intervene to stop the torture or abuse and stole property while the incident occurred.

At the conclusion of the incident, Elward surreptitiously removed a bullet from the chamber of his gun, forced the gun into M.J.’s mouth, and pulled the trigger. The unloaded gun clicked but did not fire. Elward racked the slide, intending to dry-fire a second time. When Elward pulled the trigger, the gun discharged. The bullet lacerated M.J.’s tongue, broke his jaw, and exited out of his neck.

As M.J. was bleeding on the floor, the defendants did not provide medical aid, but instead gathered outside the home to devise a false cover story and took steps to corroborate it by planting a BB gun on M.J.; destroying surveillance video, a spent shell casing, and taser cartridges; submitting fraudulent drug evidence to the crime lab; filing false reports; charging M.J. with crimes he did not commit; making false statements to investigators; and pressuring witnesses to stick to the cover story.

For several of the defendants, the incident with M.J. and E.P. was not their first-time abusing Rankin County residents. During a separate incident on Dec. 4, 2022, Dedmon beat and tased a white man and fired a gun near his head to coerce a confession, while Elward and Opdyke failed to intervene. Dedmon then sexually assaulted the man. In connection with that incident, Dedmon, Elward, and Opdyke each also pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging them with three additional federal felony offenses, including deprivation of rights under color of law and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

The FBI Jackson Field Office investigated the federal case. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation investigated the state case.

Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras and Trial Attorney Daniel Grunert of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Criminal Chief Erin O. Chalk and Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenda R. Haynes for the Southern District of Mississippi; and Mississippi Deputy Attorney General Mary Helen Wall, who was deputized as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi for the federal matter, prosecuted the case.

Updated March 21, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-333