Several deputies from a Mississippi sheriff’s department being investigated by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations have been involved in at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries, an Associated Press investigation found. Two of the men allege that Rankin County sheriff’s deputies shoved guns into their mouths during separate encounters. In one case, the deputy pulled the trigger, leaving the man with wounds that required parts of his tongue to be sewn back together. In one of the two fatal confrontations, the man’s mother said a deputy kneeled on her son’s neck while he told them he couldn’t breathe. Police and court records obtained by the AP show that several deputies who were 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. In three of them, the heavily redacted documents don’t indicate if they were serving in their normal capacity as deputies or as members of the unit. Such units have drawn scrutiny since the January killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black father who died days after being severely beaten by Black members of a special police team in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols’ death led to a Justice Department probe of similar squads around the country that comes amid the broader public reckoning over race and policing sparked by the 2020 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Mississippi, the police shooting of Michael Corey Jenkins led the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. Jenkins said six white deputies burst into a home where he was visiting a friend, and one put a gun in his mouth and fired. Jenkins’ hospital records, parts of which he shared with AP, show he had a lacerated tongue and broken jaw. Deputies said Jenkins was shot after he pointed a gun at them; department officials have not answered multiple inquiries from the AP asking whether a weapon was found at the scene. Jenkins’ attorney, Malik Shabazz, said his client didn’t have a gun. “They had complete control of him the entire time. Six officers had full and complete control of Michael the entire time,” Shabazz said. “So that’s just a fabrication.” Rankin County, which has about 120 sheriff’s deputies serving its roughly 160,000 people, is predominantly white and just east of the state capital, Jackson, home to one of the highest percentages of Black residents of any major U.S. city. In the county seat of Brandon, a towering granite-and-marble monument topped by a statue of a Confederate soldier stands across the street from the sheriff’s office. In a notice of an upcoming lawsuit, attorneys for Jenkins and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker said on the night of Jan. 24 the deputies suddenly came into the home and proceeded to handcuff and beat them. They said the deputies stunned them with Tasers repeatedly over roughly 90 minutes and, at one point, forced them to lie on their backs as the deputies poured milk over their faces. The men restated the allegations in separate interviews with the AP. When a Taser is used, it’s automatically logged into the device’s memory. The AP obtained the automated Taser […]
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