2 Black men allegedly assaulted by Mississippi deputies speak out: 'It's been terrible'
Michael Jenkins alleges he was shot in the mouth during the incident.
The two Black men who were allegedly tortured and assaulted in an incident by five Rankin County, Mississippi, deputies and one Richland police officer, spoke out Thursday for the first time about the January interaction they say left one of them shot in the mouth.
Michael Jenkins, 32, and Eddie Parker, 35, were at their residence on Jan. 24 when they say five Rankin County deputies and one Richland Police Department officer entered without a warrant to conduct a drug raid.
The deputies and officer beat the men, threw eggs at them and shocked them with Tasers for roughly 90 minutes while handcuffed, according to the lawsuit filed by the men last month in collaboration with Black Lawyers for Justice. The officers also attempted to sexually assault the men with a sex toy before making them shower together before Jenkins was eventually shot in the mouth, the lawsuit read.
Jenkins spoke to the press publicly for the first time Thursday, detailing what he described as his constant nightmares and rough road to recovery since being released from the hospital.
"It's been rough," Jenkins said, having a hard time speaking. "It's been terrible."
Parker agreed, stating he will continue to fight for justice.
The lawsuit is against the sheriff's department and related parties, and seeks $400 million in damages.
"I knew I had to fight to get justice because I ain’t got no other choice but to," Jenkins said.
All deputies allegedly involved have since resigned or been terminated from the Rankin County Sheriff's Department.
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey spoke last month about the termination of the remaining four deputies on the force allegedly involved in the incident, and told the press the department is cooperating with "all investigation efforts related to this incident and provided all information and data requested in a timely manner."
"This will continue until all investigative efforts are complete and justice is served," he continued. "We cannot, however, confirm or deny any specific facts related to this incident because of active and ongoing investigations."
While Bailey did not include the deputy who resigned and the four deputies terminated in his statement, the defendants in the plaintiffs' lawsuit include Rankin County Deputies Hunter Elward, Brett Mc'Alpin and Christian Dedmon, and three unidentified deputies under the name "John Doe."
Both men referred to Mc'Alpin and Dedmon acting as "ring-leaders" during the press conference.
Parker shared he was in his bedroom when he heard the news of the deputies' terminations.
“When I saw it, I knew it was real," he said during the press conference. "I mean it was a long time coming, but I knew it was real because it was a moment I’d been waiting on. I took it as ‘about time’ and I knew it was coming, just didn’t think it would take so long.”
None of the named officers or Bailey responded to ABC News' request for comment.
Jason Dare, an attorney for the Rankin County Sheriff's Office, did not wish to provide comment due to the ongoing investigation and to "respect the judicial process."
The Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer's Association did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
The Richland County Police Department officer allegedly involved resigned after the incident, and last week Richland County Police Chief Nick McLendon announced former officer Joshua Hartfield was off-duty at the time of the incident.
"We must express our deepest disappointment that a member of our department is claimed to be involved in a situation that goes against our department's commitment to serve and protect the public," McLendon said in the release. "Upon receiving the information regarding the allegations against Hartfield, immediate action was taken in line with our strict standards of responsibility and accountability. Hartfield was placed on administrative leave, subjected to disciplinary action, and subsequently tendered his resignation from the Richland Police Department."
The incident is currently under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) and the Department of Justice.
"The FBI Jackson Field Office, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi have opened a federal civil rights investigation into a color of law incident involving the Rankin County Sheriff's Office. The FBI will conduct the investigation in a fair, thorough and impartial manner," the FBI Jackson statement read.
Due to the ongoing investigation, the National Press Office for the FBI and MBI declined to comment.
“I know that the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has many critics of its performance. But, I can tell you from my direct dealings with the MBI in this case, that I believe that the lead officer who is investigating this case has done his investigative work on a good faith basis," attorney Malik Shabazz told the press.
National activists and Mississippi residents urged Attorney General Lynn Fitch earlier this month to press criminal charges against all parties involved, including Sheriff Bailey who the lawsuit alleges failed to discipline and reprimand the defendants.
"She has the power to put charges towards those officers for what they did," said activist John C. Barnett at the time, referring to the attorney general. "She also has the power to investigate and charge Chief Bailey."
The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter to Fitch earlier this week, requesting the indictment of all members of the Rankin County Sheriff's Department who were allegedly involved in the January incident.
"All parties responsible for these heinous crimes should be held accountable for their actions and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent," the letter stated. "For transparency, we urge you to take action and immediately release the investigative findings related to this incident."
The Attorney General's Office declined to comment due to the active investigation.
Mel Jenkins, father of Michael Jenkins, referred to his son as a warrior during the press conference and expressed his feelings regarding Fitch's silence on the case.
“I can’t see why the attorney general hadn’t jumped feet first on this case. But, as you can see, she hasn’t," he said. "That makes me think that she is backing this department. It’s not another explanation, I mean why hadn’t she done something? … I don’t understand it.”
Shabazz told press to expect the "actions from state and federal grand juries will be your next news items."
Shabazz and attorney Trent Walker announced that Michael Jenkins will be moving away from Mississippi for safety reasons. Shabazz told the press this will be the last time Jenkins will be in the state "for some time."
“We are aware of certain things that have come to our attention that have made us feel like the best course of action would be for Michael to be away from the immediate grasp of certain people," Walker said.
The family is in possible danger as well, according to Mary Jenkins, the mother of Michael Jenkins.
"I’ve heard about the Rankin County department for years," Mel Jenkins said. "My son being so strong and not dying... I think this [is] not only a fight for him and Mr. Parker, but for all of the people that Rankin County has abused and killed."