(MENAFN) The Justice Department is investigating several deputies from a Mississippi sheriff's department for possible civil rights violations. An Associated Press investigation found that several deputies were involved in at least four violent encounters with Black men since 2019 that left two dead and another with lasting injuries. Two of the men allege that 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 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. The heavily redacted documents obtained by the AP don't indicate if they were serving in their normal capacity as deputies or as members of the unit in three of the encounters. 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.
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. Deputies said Jenkins was shot after he pointed a gun at them, but 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 show he had a lacerated tongue and broken jaw. Jenkins' attorney said his client didn't have a gun and that the deputies had complete control of him the entire time.
Rankin County, which is predominantly white and just east of the state capital, Jackson, is 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.
Attorneys for Jenkins and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker said in a notice of an upcoming lawsuit that 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 Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was brought in to investigate the encounter. Its summary says a deputy shot Jenkins at approximately 11:45 p.m., or about 90 minutes after a Taser was first used, which matches the timeframe given by Parker and Jenkins.
The investigation into the Rankin County Sheriff's Department comes amid a broader public reckoning over race and policing sparked by the 2020 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The Justice Department's probe of similar squads across the country was also prompted by the January killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. The investigation of the Rankin County Sheriff's Department highlights the ongoing issue of police brutality and civil rights violations against Black Americans.
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