Officers involved in January Rankin County shooting plead guilty

Credit: Mississippi Attorney General news releaseDepartment of Public Safety release

Pursuant to the global state-federal plea agreement announced earlier this month, the six officers involved in a shooting on January 24, 2023, in Braxton, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to Aggravated Assault, Home Invasion, Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree, and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution Monday, Aug. 14 in Rankin County Circuit Court.

“Today, a strong message has been sent: abuse of power will not be tolerated in Mississippi. I am grateful for the collaboration and cooperation of our state and federal counterparts who helped us deliver justice for the two victims of this brutal attack,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “The six officers who committed these heinous acts caused more than physical harm, they severed the vital trust with the people they pledged to protect. However, these six officers are the exception, not the rule. Every day men and women in uniform put their lives on the line to protect Mississippians. It is my hope that we can now help these victims begin to heal and restore confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The Attorney General’s Office has worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on this matter. Mississippi Deputy Attorney General Mary Helen Wall, who is leading the prosecution of the state case, was deputized as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the federal case and worked with the Department of Justice to secure this global plea agreement. This case was investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The officers pleaded guilty to the following charges:

  • Former Rankin County Sheriff Deputy Hunter Elward pleaded guilty to Aggravated Assault, Home Invasion, and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
  • Former Rankin County Sheriff Narcotics Investigator Christian Dedmon pleaded guilty to Home Invasion and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
  • Former Rankin County Sheriff Chief Investigator Brett McAlpin pleaded guilty to Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
  • Former Rankin County Sheriff Lieutenant Jeffrey Middleton pleaded guilty to Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
  • Former Rankin County Sheriff Deputy Daniel Opdyk pleaded guilty to Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.
  • Former Richland Police Department Narcotics Investigator Joshua Hartfield pleaded guilty to Obstruction of Justice/Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Conspiracy to Commit Obstruction of Justice/Hinder Prosecution.

Department of Public Safety Sean Tindell added the following comments after Monday’s court action:

“The horrific acts committed by these six individuals are utterly disheartening. Their actions have placed a dark cloud on law enforcement everywhere. As stewards of the public trust, we have the responsibility of holding these individuals accountable and not just relying on our federal counterparts to handle the entirety of the investigation.
“With the passage of Senate Bill 2543 in the 2022 legislative session, critical incidents like this are now investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, then prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office. This process will continue to foster a culture of accountability and help restore the public’s confidence in the justice system.
“We will continue to do all we can to ensure the public that Mississippi is a safe place for all to live, work, and raise a family. We will hold bad actors accountable, and justice will be served.”

Sentencing will be set by Rankin County Circuit Court Judge Steve Ratcliff at a later date, along with federal sentencing.

Read General Fitch’s Aug. 3, 2023, statement on the case here.

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