UNITED STATES NEWS

Off-duty officer was with deputies accused of abusing Black men, police chief says

Jul 3, 2023, 5:51 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An off-duty police officer participated in a raid where two Black men say deputies beat and sexually assaulted them before shooting one of them in the mouth, a Mississippi police chief said Monday.

The announcement comes less than a week after Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said all five deputy sheriffs tied to the Jan. 24 episode had been Justice Department civil rights probe.

Jason Dare, an attorney representing the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office, said the department knew of five deputies who conducted the Jenkins raid. But since Jenkins and Parker came forward with their allegations in February, they have maintained that six police officers carried out the raid. The claim appeared to have been corroborated Monday.

In a statement posted online shortly after 5 p.m. the day before the Fourth of July holiday, Richland police Chief Nick McLendon said one of his officers had been involved while off-duty.

“Joshua Hartfield, while off duty, has been implicated in an incident occurring in Rankin County, Mississippi on January 24, 2023,” McLendon wrote. “We must express our deepest disappointment that a member of our department is claimed to be involved in a situation that goes against our department’s commitment to serve and protect the public.”

McLendon, who could not immediately be reached for follow-up questions, said Hartfield was placed on administrative leave and resigned after the department learned of allegations against him. He did not say when exactly he learned of the allegations or from whom. He also did not mention Jenkins and Parker in his statement.

The recent announcements follow an Associated Press investigation that linked several deputies involved with the episode to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries. Deputies who had been accepted to the sheriff’s office’s Special Response Team — a tactical unit whose members receive advanced training — were involved in each of the four encounters, the AP found.

Deputies had claimed the raid was prompted by a report of drug activity at the home.

Alongside the Justice Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is conducting a separate probe of the episode.

Jenkins and Parker have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and are seeking $400 million in damages. In a joint statement Tuesday, Malik Shabazz and Trent Walker, attorneys representing Jenkins and Parker, said the police officers involved should be criminally charged.

“All citizens of Mississippi regardless of race, creed, or color are repudiating the criminal acts of these rogue deputies,” the attorneys said. “No decent law enforcement officer wants to be affiliated with the horrific, malicious, and sadistic acts which occurred against Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker.”

___

Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mikergoldberg.

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Off-duty officer was with deputies accused of abusing Black men, police chief says