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Mayhem after Group Chat Revealed: Deputies Mocked Suspects and Planned Criminal Activities to Avoid Detection in Mississippi; Probe Launched

Mayhem after Group Chat Revealed: Deputies Mocked Suspects and Planned Criminal Activities to Avoid Detection in Mississippi; Probe Launched

The Rankin County Sheriff’s Office has announced that it will be conducting a thorough review and analysis following a recent report. The report highlighted messages exchanged in an encrypted WhatsApp group chat involving individuals identified as “Goon Squad” members, as well as other law enforcement officers, some of whom are still employed by the county.

In court documents, federal prosecutors revealed that a group of deputies referred to themselves as the “Goon Squad” due to their propensity for employing excessive force without reporting it.

The report highlights the disturbing content of some messages, which include discussions about brutalizing and demeaning suspects, as well as the sharing of disturbing crime scene photos and pictures of decaying bodies.

During a 2022 domestic violence arrest, there was an exchange where then-Deputy Hunter Elward asked, “Did you Tase him in the face?”

Fellow Goon Squad member Daniel Opdyke inquired about whether they had administered a shock to the individual in question.

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Another deputy mentioned that the suspect may have received less forceful treatment due to the presence of potential witnesses, as they noted, “All the neighbors were outside watching.”

According to the Times, members of the chat also engaged in a conversation about capturing explicit images of a woman they had apprehended.

Deputies receiving “points” for shooting someone is a topic of discussion in another exchange.

Information from a former deputy’s private cell phone is believed to be present in a WhatsApp group chat.

The statement clarified that three individuals who are currently employed with the Department were included in a private group chat by a former deputy. It emphasized that none of them have been accused of violating anyone’s constitutional rights or committing any criminal acts.

Elward, Opdyke, and Jeffrey Middleton, who were former deputies and members of the Goon Squad, were all involved in the chat that was examined by the Times and Mississippi Today. According to the report, the mention of Former Deputy Brett McAlpin can be found in one exchange.

McAlpin, Middleton, Elward and Opdyke, along with former Deputy Christian Dedmon and Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield have all admitted to the sexual assault and kidnapping of two innocent Black men, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, in Rankin County in January 2023. They are currently serving prison sentences at both the state and federal levels.

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According to the Department of Justice, the planning of the assaults on Jenkins and Parker occurred on WhatsApp. The connection between the group chat mentioned by the Justice Department and the one reported by the Times and Mississippi Today remains unclear.

In an interview, a former member of the group chat, who is no longer employed by the sheriff’s department, described his messages as “absolutely all jokes.”

The department and Sheriff Bryan Bailey were unaware of the existence of a group of officers who referred to themselves as the ‘Goon Squad’ until a bill of information was filed in federal court, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

The statement adds that during this period, it was discovered that the five former deputies had organized their illegal activities through private text messaging, possibly to evade detection by the Department and Sheriff Bailey.

In March, following the conviction of the former law enforcement officers. Reynolds highlighted that Opdyke willingly participated in the investigation by providing encrypted text messages from WhatsApp.

“The claim that they were merely ‘joking’ about torturing individuals in their supposedly private WhatsApp messages seems insincere, considering the numerous instances of documented torture,” Reynolds stated in an interview, addressing the recent report.

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