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Criminal Justice

Mississippi Police Department Faces a $400M Federal Lawsuit for Shooting Man in Jaw

The Rankin County Sheriff’s Department has a history of excessive force lawsuits.

Michael Corey Jenkins was shot in the mouth while handcuffed by deputies Jan. 24 in Rankin County, Mississippi, a spokesman for his family alleges. (Courtesy of the Jenkins family)

A Mississippi man who barely survived being shot in the mouth while six white Rankin County police officers held him and his friend during an alleged drug raid has filed a $400 million federal lawsuit.

Michael Corey Jenkins, 32, and Eddie T. Parker, 35, both Black, say their civil rights were violated on Jan. 24 when deputies from Rankin County’s Sheriff’s Department burst through the front door of Parker’s residence, handcuffed the men and searched for drugs. When the officers didn’t find anything when they illegally entered Parker’s home, they used “excessive interrogation methods to coerce a confession,” their attorney Malik Z. Shabazz previously told Capital B

Capital B has reached out to Jason Dare, an attorney for the sheriff’s department, for comment.

Three of the officers, including Hunter Elward, who were at the Braxton, Mississippi, home, and Sheriff Byran Bailey were named as codefendants in the lawsuit. Jenkins said Elward shot him in the mouth causing severe, almost fatal injuries to his jaw and tongue. After the ordeal, Elward filed false criminal charges against Jenkins, claiming that he pointed a gun at him first, according to the lawsuit. 

“This is one of the worst and most bizarre incidents of police misconduct in the United States history, with the egregious conduct described,” Shabazz said at a press conference on Monday. 

For nearly two hours, the men were repeatedly punched, kicked, slapped, shocked with stun guns and berated with racist comments. The officers also allegedly attempted to use a sex toy to rape Jenkins and Parker, according to the lawsuit. When the officers weren’t able to commit the sexual assault against Jenkins because he defecated on himself, “in a very juvenile and bizarre manner,” the officers laughed, threw eggs at the men, forced them to strip naked and shower together, according to the lawsuit.

Read more: ‘I Was on My Knees, Handcuffed’: Black Man Shot By Mississippi Police Tells His Story

The deputies intentionally deactivated their body cameras during the incident, stole surveillance computer equipment from Parker’s home, and turned their cameras back on when they left the scene in an attempt “to do their dirt and commit their torts and crime,” according Shabazz.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has launched a federal investigation against the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office in connection to this case, but has not confirmed if the attempted sexual assault accusation will be included. Shabazz sent a letter to the Civil Rights Division on May 8 to demand that the case be investigated as a hate crime. A spokesperson for the Civil Rights Division confirmed receiving Shabazz’s letter.

Warning: Graphic image

The family of Michael C. Jenkins took a photograph of him in the hospital about two weeks after the shooting. The family’s representative says Jenkins has lost the ability to speak because his tongue was surgically removed due to damage by the bullet. (Courtesy of the Jenkins Family)

Shabazz classified this incident as a “free-for-all intimidation and torture session” that included death threats by the deputies, false accusations of selling drugs, and “dating white women.” They also poured liquids from Parker’s refrigerator — beer, milk, water — over the faces of Parker and Jenkins, in an illegal practice called “waterboarding,” Shabazz said.

“This is in the custom, in the practice of Rankin County… and Sheriff Bryan Bailey refuses to do anything about it,” said Shabazz, as he named two other officers accused of excessive force.

Elward, Christian Dedmon, Bailey and other members of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department are a part of the county’s Special Response Team, and have been named in other excessive force federal lawsuits, including the 2019 shooting death of Pierre Woods. Woods died in a hail of bullets fired by more than a dozen officers after an hours-long standoff where he appeared “disoriented, mentally challenged and possibly intoxicated,” and refused to leave a relative’s home in Pelahatchie, according to a federal lawsuit Woods’ family filed against the department. 

Elward admitted to firing eight of those shots, according to statements provided to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and obtained by Capital B through a public information request. The MBI closed their investigation in 2020, and a grand jury declined to file charges. 

In the ongoing lawsuit, video evidence from the scene led the judge to deny qualified immunity for Bailey. “The Video presented, which depicts officers firing their weapons at a face-down Woods for at least 7 seconds after he exited the front door. This court also notes that Sheriff Bailey held the authority to order ‘cease fire’, which would have immediately stopped the officers’ shooting,” according to an order filed in March by Judge Henry T. Wingate. 

Bailey is appealing the ruling.