Revolting evidence of people’s capacity for brutality

I am old enough and have read enough history to know that people can act in incredibly cruel ways towards other people. The current conflicts in Gaza, Haiti, Yemen, Sudan, and other places provide enough testimony as to how people can be so lacking in empathy that they can subject their fellow human beings to such awful treatment. And yet, I still feel disgusted and shocked when I read news stories that take place outside of conflict zones that describe awful behavior.

Take the case of how six white police officers in the town of Rankin, Mississippi treated two black men in their own home.

The group of six burst into a Rankin County home without a warrant and assaulted Jenkins and Parker with stun guns, a sex toy and other objects. Elward admitted to shoving a gun into Jenkins’ mouth and firing in a “mock execution” that went awry.

Once inside, they handcuffed Jenkins and his friend Parker and poured milk, alcohol and chocolate syrup over their faces. They forced them to strip naked and shower together to conceal the mess. They mocked the victims with racial slurs and shocked them with stun guns.

After Elward shot Jenkins in the mouth, they devised a coverup that included planting drugs and a gun. False charges stood against Jenkins and Parker for months.

“I am hurt. I am broken,” Jenkins wrote in his statement. “They tried to take my manhood from me. They did some unimaginable things to me, and the effects will linger for the rest of my life.”

Why had the police officers gone to that home in the first place? Was it because the men were thought to be dangerous criminals? No.

The terror began on Jan. 24, 2023, with a racist call for extrajudicial violence when a white person phoned Rankin County Deputy Brett McAlpin and complained that two Black men were staying with a white woman in Braxton. McAlpin told Deputy Christian Dedmon, who texted a group of white deputies so willing to use excessive force they called themselves “The Goon Squad.”

This is not the first time that this so-called ‘Goon Squad’ had acted with such brutality.

Last March, months before federal prosecutors announced charges in August, an investigation by The Associated Press linked some of the deputies to at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries.

Elward was also sentenced for his role in an assault on a white man that took place weeks before Jenkins and Parker were tortured. For the first time Tuesday, prosecutors identified the victim as Alan Schmidt and read a statement from him detailing what happened to him on Dec. 4, 2022.

During a traffic stop that night, Schmidt said Rankin County deputies accused him of possessing stolen property. They pulled him from the car and beat him. Then, Dedmon forced him to his knees and tried to insert his genitals into Schmidt’s mouth, as Elward watched.

One of the members of the squad was sentenced to 20 years in prison while another received 17.5 years. The other four are due to be sentenced later this week.

The “majority-white Rankin County is just east of the state capital, Jackson, home to one of the highest percentages of Black residents of any major U.S. city” and the trial revealed that it had a police department that had a racist and brutal culture.

Racism runs deep in the US and that a culture that is so steeped in guns and violence will have people who indulge in the worst kinds of brutality if they think they can get away with it, and police officers unfortunately tend to think they can. The recent heavy penalties given to police officers for abusive behavior may, I hope, lead to a reduction in cases of this kind. But I still find it shocking and dispiriting.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Not for the first time I wonder why anyone with any choice in the matter would visit the US, much less live there.

  2. Holms says

    Because expense, because it’s home, because it’s the devil they know, because it’s the only place they’ve been to, because they want to improve it rather than leave, etc. etc. etc..

    The usual and obvious reasons.

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