JACKSON, Miss. – Civil suit continues against a former Mississippi deputy who pleaded guilty on Aug. 3 to torturing two Black men and shooting one of them in the mouth. The suit alleges that the deputy is also responsible for the death of another Black man in 2021.
In a Wednesday ruling, Rankin County Circuit Judge Brad Mills allowed claims of excessive force to move forward against Hunter Elward, a member of a group of corrupt law officers known as the “Goon Squad.”
Monica Lee believes that Elward and a current deputy unrelated to Elward’s crimes are responsible for the death of her son, Damien Cameron.
“Every day is a hurtful day for me,” Lee said in an interview. “I lost Damien because of those officers.”
Cameron, who had a history of mental illness, was accused of vandalizing a neighbor’s home in 2021. Elward responded to the scene and chased Cameron inside his grandparents’ home. He shocked Cameron with a stun gun and punched him while deputy Luke Stickman kneeled on Cameron’s neck, even as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe.
Cameron later died at the hospital, and an autopsy report listed his cause of death as “undetermined.”
Trent Walker, one of Lee’s attorneys, said the judge’s ruling allows them to “pursue justice for Ms. Lee and her family on behalf of her son Damien.”
Jason Dare, an attorney representing the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office and its deputies in civil cases, declined to comment on the judge’s Wednesday order.
After Elward escaped legal consequences, he went on to assault Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker during a raid in 2023. Elward and five other officers entered a house without a warrant where they assaulted the men with stun guns and other objects. The officers then planted drugs and a gun on Jenkins to cover it up.
The deputies pleaded guilty to federal crimes last week and are scheduled to plead guilty to state charges on Monday. These charges followed an investigation that linked some of the deputies to violent encounters with Black men in recent years.
Lee believes that Elward would not have assumed he could get away with his crimes if he had been held accountable for his misconduct against her son years before.
Lee’s complaint states that Rankin County deputies, including Elward and Stickman, were allowed to turn their body cameras on and off at their own convenience to cover up their misdeeds. The lack of supervision and training in the use of body cameras created an environment of indifference to citizens’ rights.
In a news conference, Sheriff Bryan Bailey acknowledged the failure of the body camera policy and promised to change it.