JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it is investigating possible civil rights violations by a Mississippi sheriff’s department after a drug raid last month left a Black man with a bullet wound to the face.
There is a stark discrepancy in how police say the Jan. 24 incident unfolded and what lawyers for the family of Michael Corey Jenkins say occurred. The lawyers claim it was a racially motivated attack while police say the shooting occurred after someone pointed a gun at deputies during the late-night raid at a home in Rankin County, just east of the state capital of Jackson.
Attorneys for Jenkins, 32, say he was critically injured by white Rankin County deputies. Jenkins was released from the hospital Tuesday and attended a news conference Wednesday, where he nodded affirmatively when his lawyer, Malik Shabazz, asked if deputies had beaten him and shot him in the mouth.
“This is deliberate. This is drawn out. This is unheard of,” Shabazz told reporters.
According to Shabazz, deputies never presented a warrant before forcing their way into the home. The deputies immediately subdued Jenkins and another man, Eddie Terrell Parker. Neither resisted, he said.
Shabazz said for the next 90 minutes, deputies punched Jenkins and Parker and repeatedly used Tasers on them while they were handcuffed.
Parker said he was sitting in his bedroom at about 10 p.m. that night when he heard loud talking coming from the home’s living room. He said he opened his door and saw deputies in the hallway, and they immediately ordered him to get down on the floor.
During the time he and Jenkins were held by police, Parker said, they were ordered to lie on their backs. He said deputies then began pouring milk over his face. He said he struggled “to keep breathing and keep from drowning at the same time.”
“There was milk coming out of my nose, my mouth,” Parker told The Associated Press in an interview. “I’ve never been in that position and felt the way that I felt that night.”
The Justice Department released a statement following the news conference, saying its civil rights division, along with local FBI agents and federal prosecutors in Mississippi, have opened a federal civil rights investigation.
Bailey Martin, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, said the state agency also is investigating the shooting. He declined further comment.
In a news release on Jan. 25, the bureau said the deputies were conducting a narcotics investigation when they entered the home. The bureau said the shooting occurred after someone pointed a gun toward the deputies. The statement does not say whether a weapon was recovered at the scene.
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said in a statement that he immediately sought a state investigation. The sheriff’s office gave few details but said Jenkins was charged with assaulting an officer and drug possession. Parker has been charged with possession of paraphernalia and disorderly conduct.
“Rest assured, if any deputy or suspect involved in this incident is found to have broken the law, he will be held accountable in accordance with the law,” the sheriff said.
Bailey did not respond to written questions about whether deputies had a warrant or if the deputies involved had been placed on administrative leave.