The FBI has opened an investigation into the alleged beating and torture of two Black men by Rankin County deputies.
“The FBI Jackson Field Office, the U,S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi have opened a federal civil rights investigation into a color of law incident into the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office,” according to a statement from the FBI.
Weeks after Rankin County deputies raided a home and beat and threatened two Black men and shot one in the mouth, a civil rights attorney is calling for justice, answers and for the deputies to be charged.
On Wednesday, Michael Corey Jenkins, 32, was released from the intensive care unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He underwent two surgeries to treat injuries to his mouth and head, including surgical removal of his tongue. As a result, he is unable to talk and now communicates through writing or gestures.
“Easily he could have been like Tyree Nichols or on the long (list of) names of victims here of police abuse and police brutality,” said Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice in Washington, D.C., one of Jenkins’ attorneys.
On Jan. 24, Jenkins and another victim, Eddie Terrell Parker, 35, were at a home in Braxton where Parker lives with the property owner when six white Rankin deputies conducting a drug investigation raided.
Shabazz said they did not announce themselves or show a search warrant. They accused the men of selling drugs and later charged them with possession of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia, the attorney said.
For 90 minutes, deputies exercised what Shabazz called intimidation and unjustified torture of Jenkins and Parker. The men were punched, kicked, slapped and tasered while handcuffed. They had guns pointed at them and were threatened with death, Shabazz said.
The attorney said during that time, the deputies waterboarded Jenkins and Parker. Waterboarding is an illegal torture technique that involves strapping someone down, putting a wet rag in their mouth and pouring water over them to simulate drowning.
“It was senseless and uncalled for,” Parker said at the news conference. “It was traumatizing and something I never thought I’d go through.”
It ended when a deputy placed a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and pulled the trigger, Shabazz said. Jenkins could have died, but the bullet exited his mouth.
When Mary Jenkins found out her son had been shot by police, she called the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. She asked what the charges were against Jenkins, but did not get an answer. She was only told he was under investigation.
“They acted like my son wasn’t even human,” she said, adding that the sheriff’s office didn’t treat her family well, kept Jenkins under their watch at the hospital and prevented them from seeing him.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation interviewed Jenkins in his hospital room for the first time since the shooting, and he confirmed what deputies did to him, Shabazz said.
The recounting of Jenkins’ and Parker’s experience differs from information offered by investigators and law enforcement.
A Jan.25 news release from the Department of Public Safety said Rankin County deputies encountered a person – now identified as Jenkins – during a narcotics investigation at a Braxton residence and shot when he displayed a gun.
During the Wednesday news conference, Jenkins shook his head when Shabazz asked whether he had a gun or handled one at any point during the incident.
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey released a five-sentence statement Tuesday evening that did not address allegations of mistreatment by the deputies against Jenkins and Parker.
He said the sheriff’s office contacted the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to look into the deputies’ actions.
“We are fully cooperating with that ongoing investigation and will continue to do so,” Bailey said in the statement. “Rest assured, if any deputy or suspect involved in this incident is found to have broken the law, he will be held accountable in accordance with the law.”
Shabazz said the sheriff’s office has not shared much information, including confirmation whether any officers have been placed on administrative leave.
The attorney is asking for attempted murder, aggravated assault and conspiracy charges to be filed against all the deputies, all body camera footage be released and Rankin County to respond immediately to all records requests related to the incident.
He read the allegations of brutality from a notice to file a lawsuit against Sheriff Bryan Bailey and the government of Rankin County. After a 90-day period, Shabazz can file the lawsuit and is set to ask for $90 million in compensatory and punitive damages for the two men.
Shabazz also wants the “totally false” charges against the men to be dropped. In addition to drug charges, Parker was also charged with disorderly conduct and Jenkins was charged with aggravated assault, the attorney said.
Another member of the men’s legal team, attorney Trent Walker, said they will take the lead to get the charges against Jenkins and Parker dismissed.
“Something has to change because what is going on here should not go on in a civilized society,” he said.