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Resourceful, dogged reporting links sheriff’s deputies in Mississippi to a pattern of abuses

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Two Black men said county sheriff’s deputies conducting a drug raid in Rankin County, Mississippi, detained and abused them for 90 minutes by pouring milk over their faces and stunning them repeatedly with Tasers, culminating with one deputy putting his gun in Jenkins’ mouth and pulling the trigger. Goldberg filed an initial story on Feb. 15, when Jenkins was released from the hospital following weeks of treatment, and the U.S. Justice Department announced it was investigating.

But Goldberg was just getting started. With the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office refusing to answer questions, Goldberg spent weeks reviewing incident reports, civil lawsuits, legal depositions, automated Taser reports and medical records, which uncovered facts that corroborated parts of the men’s story. The Taser reports, though heavily redacted, showed deputies’ Tasers were switched on, turned off or used dozens of times within roughly an hour the night of the raid. Jenkins’ medical records showed he suffered a lacerated tongue and a broken jaw from the gunshot.

Goldberg also found a civil lawsuit by another Black man who said a Rankin County deputy had pushed a gun barrel into his mouth during a 2019 drug bust. Goldberg also tracked down court records connecting several deputies who took part in the raid involving Jenkins to a Special Response Team within the department that receives advanced training. Those deputies had roles in three other violent encounters with Black men, two of whom were killed. Prosecutors presented one man’s death to a grand jury, but no charges were brought.

A criminal expert quoted by Goldberg said there is no reason for a police officer to point a gun inside a suspect’s mouth.

Goldberg’s story was used widely inside and outside Mississippi — from USA Today and the New York Post to being splashed across the pages of Mississippi’s two largest newspapers, the Clarion-Ledger and Sun Herald. On the day the story moved, it was AP’s fifth most-read story, with nearly 100,000 page views.

For intrepid reporting related to a pattern of abuses among sheriff’s deputies in Rankin County, Mississippi, Goldberg earns Best of the Week — Second Winner. 

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