Three activists urged Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves to initiate proceedings to remove Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey from office unless he resigns willingly during a rally outside the governor’s mansion on Tuesday. The activists, John Osborne, John C. Barnett and Fred Chambliss, said they did not believe the sheriff’s claim that he did not know about the so-called “goon squad” of deputies in his department who tortured two Black men last year.

State law empowers the governor to remove a sheriff from office who fails in his duties in certain situations. “Before the Governor shall consider the removal from a county office of any elective county officer, there shall be first filed with him a petition signed by not less than thirty percent (30%) of the qualified electors of said county demanding the removal of said officer. Such petition shall contain a general statement, in not more than two hundred (200) words, of the ground or grounds on which such removal is demanded, which statement shall be for the information of the officer involved, for the information of the council hereinafter provided, and for the information of the qualified electors of the county,” Section 25-5-7 of the Mississippi Code says.

The Rankin County chapter of the NAACP has been collecting signatures from residents for a petition demanding Bailey’s resignation.

“We’d be fools to think (Bailey) didn’t know anything about the ‘goon squad,” said Barnett, who is a civil-rights activist from North Carolina.

Rankin County Circuit Court Judge Steve Ratcliff sentenced the six men on state charges at a courthouse this morning in Brandon, Miss., for their roles in the physical, sexual and racist torture of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker in January 2023.

The judge sentenced f Rankin County Deputies Brett McAlpin, Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke to serve 20 years; Christian Dedmon to 25 years; Hunter Elward to 45 years; and former Richland Police Officer Joshua Hartfield to 15 years in federal prison, NBC News reported. They must all pay fines within two years of release and permanently surrender their law enforcement certificates, the report continued.

Several men stand outside to speak in front of local media microphones.
Eddie Terrell Parker (left) and Michael Jenkins (right) are joined by attorney Trent Walker (center) at a press conference in Jackson, Miss., on March 18, 2024. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

The ex-officers will serve their state sentences concurrently to their federal terms, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Judge Tom Lee decided last month.

Lee already gave each of the six former officers sentences ranging from 10 to 40 years in prison last month for the federal case, calling their actions “egregious and despicable.”

‘This Type of Brutal Policing Has To Stop’

Although the six officers accused in the assault on the two men have been sentenced to prison, activist John Osborne said at the rally on Tuesday that these sentences are not enough.

Activist John Osborne stands outside the governor’s mansion in Jackson, Miss., on April 9, 2024. Osborne said he does not believe Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey’s claim that he did not know the “goon squad” terrorizing residents. Photo by Imani Khayyam

Since last August, Osborne has spent almost every Saturday morning sitting outside the Rankin County Circuit Courthouse in Brandon, Miss., with a sign calling for the resignation of Sheriff Bryan Bailey.

Osborne, a 62-year-old Mississippi native, said he believes that the “goon squad” was born out of systemic failures within the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department and wants the U.S. Department of Justice to step in.

“That type of brutal policing has to stop,” Osborne said. “We celebrate the sentences. But let’s not pretend that’s justice.”

“This issue isn’t resolved just by sentencing these six people,” he continued. “The idea that the head man who’s been the sheriff for 10-plus years was not aware of the ‘goon squad’ is illogical.”

Bailey Denies Knowledge Of “Goon Squad”

Under the guise of conducting a narcotics investigation, the five Rankin County sheriff’s deputies and one Richland police officer broke into a home in Braxton, Miss., on the night of Jan. 24, 2023, after a neighbor on the street had complained to one of the deputies about two Black men staying at the home with a white woman.

They found Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker in the home, handcuffed them and proceeded to beat the men, tase them repeatedly, douse them with milk, chocolate syrup, alcohol and eggs, and assault them with a sex toy they had found while ransacking the home.

A woman and a man stand among a seated audience, talking towards the front of the room
Mary and Melvin Jenkins, pictured, said at an NAACP town hall in Brandon, Miss., on April 6, 2024, that they have received threats since coming forward about the assault their son, Michael Jenkins, endured at the hands of the Rankin County “goon squad.” “I think God kept my son here for the perfect purpose of exposing Rankin County,” Melvin Jenkins said. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Deputy Hunter Elward ended the torture session by shooting Jenkins in the mouth, which “shattered Jenkins’ jaw and severely lacerated his tongue,” a $400-million lawsuit Jenkins’ and Parker’s attorneys filed on June 12, 2023, states.

The men then huddled outside on the porch, concocting a cover-up story that included planting methamphetamine at the scene and claiming that Jenkins had reached for a gun during the narcotics raid.

Officials dropped all charges against Jenkins and Parker as it became apparent that they had committed no crimes and instead had been victims.

Sheriff Bailey has maintained that he had no knowledge of the terror some of his deputies were unleashing on residents and promised policy changes within the department.

“The safety and security of our citizens, and visitors, is one of our main objectives, and we take all occurrences of this nature very seriously,” the sheriff said in a statement to the Pelahatchie News on Nov. 28, 2023.

An Associated Press investigation last year found that several deputies involved in the case had been “involved in at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries.” A separate joint investigation between Mississippi Today and the New York Times found a pattern stretching back decades.

Clarification: This story has been updated to include Section 25-5-7 of Mississippi code.

Capital City reporter Shaunicy Muhammad has an enduring interest in social-justice issues, class inequality, Africana studies and cultural storytelling.

Her educational background includes a journalism degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. Her time as an undergraduate student culminated with the production of the senior research project “Black Unrest, Riots and How Newspapers Frame the Narrative of African American Social Protest,” which analyzed patterns in the narratives reporters used when explaining the social unrest and uprisings after the deaths of Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

She is reporting on the capital city with a year-long focus on causes, effects and solutions for systemic inequities in South Jackson, supported by a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Email her at [email protected].