JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two men — one of whom was shot in the mouth by a law enforcement officer — announced on Tuesday that they will file a federal civil rights lawsuit against a Mississippi sheriff’s department alleging a pattern of excessive force against Black people.
In a news release announcing the lawsuit, attorneys for Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker also publicly identified for the first time the deputy who they say put a gun inside Michael Corey Jenkins’ mouth before firing it. Parker confirmed the deputy's identity in a follow-up interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The upcoming lawsuit comes amid an ongoing Justice Department civil rights investigation into the encounter between Jenkins, Parker and Rankin County Department Sheriff's deputies in January.
In a news release, Attorney Malik Shabazz said that he would file 22 claims of federal civil rights violations in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi before Monday. The men will seek $400 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
“If there ever were a case where punitive damages needed to be levied against police officers, this is the case,” attorney Shabazz wrote in the release. “This incredible, nasty, violent ordeal exposes that Rankin County deputies and the Department have had a long pattern and practice of deadly excessive force and hate crimes against its African American citizens.”
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department and an attorney representing the deputies did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has confirmed that a deputy shot Jenkins, but the agency has not identified the deputy or released any other details about the case. Jenkins was hospitalized for weeks, and his medical records show he suffered a lacerated tongue and a broken jaw. Deputies have not said whether a weapon was found at the scene.
Jenkins has said he didn’t know the name of the deputy who shot him. Parker, Shabazz and attorney Trent Walker claim it was Deputy Hunter Elward, based partly on a separate court document in which Elward swore that Jenkins had pointed a gun at him. In addition, Parker said he recognized Elward from online photos of the deputy.
Jenkins and Parker said on the night of Jan. 24, six white Rankin County deputies suddenly came into the home where Parker was living and proceeded to handcuff and beat them. They said the deputies shocked them repeatedly with stun guns 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 also said deputies attempted to assault them with a sex toy they found while searching the home. Jenkins said the encounter culminated with a deputy placing a gun in his mouth and firing.
Deputies said the raid was prompted by a report of drug activity at the home. Jenkins was charged with possessing between 2 and 10 grams of methamphetamine and aggravated assault on a police officer. Parker was charged with two misdemeanors: possession of paraphernalia and disorderly conduct. Deputies have not said whether they obtained a warrant to search the home. The lawsuit will allege deputies illegally entered.
There is no body camera footage of the incident. Automated Taser records obtained by The AP show that Tasers were turned on, turned off or used dozens of times during a roughly 65-minute period before Jenkins was shot.
An AP investigation in March revealed that several Rankin County Sheriff’s Department deputies have been involved in at least four violent encounters with Black men, including the one with Jenkins and Parker, since 2019 that also left two dead. A second man besides Jenkins also alleges that deputies shoved guns into his mouth.
The allegations against the deputies have sparked a Justice Department probe into the encounter. In a community meeting in Mississippi on June 1, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said the investigation is still ongoing.
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mikergoldberg.