A routine traffic stop turned deadly Saturday night, when two on-duty police officers were shot and killed in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Authorities said they had arrested three suspects in the killings Sunday morning. The Clarion-Ledger, a newspaper in Jackson, reported that the shooting occurred around 8pm Saturday, after one of the officers instigated a traffic stop. At least one of the officers was still alive when two passing Hattiesburg residents discovered them sometimes afterwards, but both were later pronounced dead at an area hospital.
Butch Benedict, the county coroner, identified the deceased as Benjamin Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 25. Deen was a canine officer, while Tate had only recently graduated from the police academy, according to The Clarion-Ledger. Mayor Johnny DuPree said it was the first time in 30 years that an on-duty officer had been killed in Hattiesburg. “The men and women who go out every day to protect us, the men and women who go out every day to make sure that we are safe, were turned on tonight,” DuPree said. An “extensive” manhunt overnight resulted in three individuals being arrested in connection to the killings.
The Hattiesburg Police Department identified the suspects as Marvin Banks, 29, Joanie Calloway, 22, and Curtis Banks, 26. In an initial statement, police described the Banks brothers as armed and dangerous. Marvin has been charged with two counts of capital murder, one count of grand theft auto, and one count of a felon in possession of a firearm. Curtis meanwhile was charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of capital murder. Calloway, along with Marvin, has been charged with two counts of capital murder.
Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said one of the police officers had stopped a 2000 Gold Cadillac Escalade at approximately 8:30 pm on Saturday. A second officer then arrived to assist, and shots were fired. Passersby Tamika Mills and Pearnell Roberts discovered the two officers who had been shot, and called 911. “Never in my life have I experienced or seen anything like this except on TV, and to be in the midst of it, it's shocking and heartbreaking,” Mills told The Clarion-Ledger. Torsky Williams, a long-time Hattiesburg resident, told WHLT (a local CBS affiliate) that he was in the area when the assault occurred, and heard “six or seven shots.”
Both officers were taken Forrest General Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Tate, an alumnus of Southwest Mississippi Community College, had posted to his Facebook page that he had graduated from the police academy on June 11, 2014. Deen was named the Hattiesburg Police Department’s Officer of the Year in 2012. CNN reported that the latter leaves behind a wife and two children. Tate had no children and was unmarried, Mayor DuPree said.
The Banks brothers were both arrested early Sunday morning: Marvin was apprehended by Lamar County officers at a motel just before 1 am, while Curtis was arrested at an apartment complex at 3 am. Both were taken to Troop J of the Mississippi Highway Patrol to be questioned by the state’s Bureau of Investigation. The Clarion-Ledger reported that Curtis denied his involvement, in response to questions posed by reporters stationed outside Troop J. “No sir, I didn't do it,” he said. The Bankses are Hattiesburg residents, and have been arrested multiple times on weapons and gun charges. Both have felony convictions, the Jackson paper reported.
Authorities said that Calloway was in the Escalade with the two brothers at the time of the shooting. The officers’ police car, which the suspects are believed to have fled in, was found abandoned after the shooting. Police spokesman Strain said it was still unclear why the traffic stop had been initiated, and why shooting had broken out.
Mayor DuPree visited the crime scene Sunday, before heading to the hospital to console the families of the deceased. “You have to search for words you say to family members how much we love them; we are here to support them,” the mayor said.