Charles Muhammad told protestors outside of the Rankin County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, that Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker's torture was part of a long legacy of abuse. His son died in 1992 after being taken into custody by Rankin County deputies. Credit: Nate Rosenfield/MCIR at Mississippi Today

Protestors gathered outside the offices of Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Rankin County Sheriff Brian Bailey on Wednesday, calling for the indictment of six Rankin County deputies accused of torturing two Black men and shooting one of them in the mouth while he was restrained. 

“We want them charged. We want them sentenced.” said John C. Barnett, one of the organizers of the protest. “We’re not asking. We’re demanding.” 

Fitch and Bailey would not meet with the protestors. Organizers said they reached out by phone, letter and email for the past week before attempting to meet with the officials in person and have received no response. 

Neither office responded to requests for comment by Mississippi Today

“Their silence is their answer,” said Sherrell Potts, an organizer with the New Black Panther Party. “We won’t be silent.”

The Department of Justice and the FBI opened an investigation into the incident in January. Last week, Bailey announced that the deputies involved in the alleged torture had been fired. 

“This isn’t a decision that Sheriff Bailey made,” Barnett said. “He’s only doing what the Department of Justice put pressure on him to do.”

On Jan. 24, Michael Corey Jenkins, 32, and Eddie Terrell Parker, 35, were at Parker’s home in Braxton when Rankin County deputies burst inside to conduct a narcotics raid, allegedly without a warrant. 

The deputies restrained the two men while shouting racial slurs at them, according to a federal lawsuit filed last month. While they were handcuffed, the men were beaten and tased. Court documents also state the men were waterboarded – an illegal torture technique in which a person is restrained, a wet rag is placed over their mouth, and liquid is poured over it to simulate drowning. 

The deputies proceeded to sexually assault the two men using a sex toy, according to the lawsuit, before one of the deputies, Hunter Elward, placed a gun in Jenkins’ mouth and fired, breaking his jaw and lacerating his tongue. Jenkins would have died, if he had not received life-saving surgeries, according to his lawyer, Trent Walker. 

The day after the incident, Elward signed an affidavit claiming Jenkins had pointed a gun at him, which the federal lawsuit against the deputies called “false.” No firearm was recovered.

Protestors Monica Lee Cameron, John C. Barrettt, and Sherrell Potts walk out of Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office Wednesday, July 5, 2023, after Fitch wouldn’t meet with them. Credit: Nate Rosenfield/MCIR at Mississippi Today

“If you are going to shoot him because you claim he had a weapon, then the entry wound would’ve been from outside his mouth,” Walker said. 

The deputies did not turn on their body cameras during the incident, according to sheriff’s department’s records. Court documents claim a surveillance camera within the home was taken by the deputies during the arrest and never returned. 

Elward’s affidavit stated two bags of methamphetamine were found during the raid. Jenkins was charged with assaulting an officer and drug possession. Parker was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct.

“They came there to torture these young men, and that’s what they did,” said Walker, who has asserted the incident was a hate crime. 

Walker said one of his clients was living in the home of a White woman with whom he was not romantically involved. “These officers had a problem with that,” Walker said. 

“No one is being held accountable,” said Priscilla Sterling, a cousin of Emmitt Till, who was present at Wednesday’s protest. 

The Rankin County Sheriff’s Department has faced several investigations into police misconduct, some involving the deputies present at Jenkins’ shooting. 

In 2021, a man named Damien Cameron died in police custody after being tasered and restrained by Elward and another deputy. 

Cameron’s mother, Monica Lee Cameron also spoke outside the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department, demanding justice for her son. “Sheriff Bailey needs to go,” Cameron said.  

In 2021, a man named Cory Jackson died in custody at the Rankin County Jail. Jackson’s family was attempting to take him to a hospital because he was suffering from a psychotic episode when Jackson fled. He was arrested by a Rankin County deputy and suffered injuries while in custody. He died that same night. 

In 2019, Pierre Woods was shot and killed by Rankin County deputies including Deputies Christian Dedmond and Hunter Elward.

“This has been happening for many years,” said Charles Muhammad, a community organizer from Jackson who told the crowd at Wednesday’s protest that his son, Andre Lemond Jones, died after he was taken into custody by the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department in 1992. Muhammad said that 19 hours after his son’s arrest, Jones was found dead — strangled with his own shoelaces in Simpson County Jail. Muhammad believes his son was killed because of his family’s involvement in civil rights activism. 

“I wanted to add my voice,” Muhammad said, “and let the world know that this has been happening way before this incident.”

John C. Barnett said that if the organizers of Wednesday’s protest did not hear from Attorney General Fitchor Sheriff Bailey by the end of the week, they would return with greater numbers.

“We will be back,” Barnett said. 

Nate Rosenfield is an Immersion Fellow with the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, part of Mississippi Today.

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