A regular night that started off as just two officers performing a traffic stop in Mississippi, took a tragic turn and became the first law enforcement murder incident experienced by Hattiesburg residents in the last 30 years. A traffic stop ended in a crime scene that left two police officers dead and four suspects facing serious criminal charges.
According to Mayor Johnny DuPree, around eight p.m. on May 9, officer Liquori Tate, 24, and officer Benjamin Deen, 34, were shot to death in the middle of performing a traffic stop. Both officers had been transported to the hospital, but neither one survived the night.
Police reported one of the Hattiesburg officers that had been shot made the initial traffic stop, involving a Cadillac SUV inside an industrial type area. The second officer that had been shot, showed up as backup, after the traffic stop had already been made. Shots were fired upon arrival of the second officer. This incident marks the first killing of an Hattiesburg officer the town has experienced in the last 30 years.
The suspects have been accused by authorities of allegedly stealing one of the police vehicles that belonged to one of the officers involved in the incident, as a means to flee the scene of the crime. The police car, which had been abandoned by the suspects, had been discovered later that night.
Marvin Banks, 29-years-old, faces counts of grand theft auto, a felon with illegal possession of a firearm and also two counts of capital murder. According to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Banks’ girlfriend, Joanie Calloway, 22 years of age, has also been charged with capital murder on two counts. Banks’ brother, Curtis Banks, has been charged with accessory to murder on two counts, after the fact. The mayor’s office has reported Cornelius Clark, suspect number four, with being charged with obstructing justice.
Police said the young girl, Calloway, was the person who had been driving the vehicle during the time of the traffic stop, prior to any gunfire. The shooter, Banks, was one of the passengers in the vehicle. According to police, Curtis had not been in the car during the time of the shooting.
About five hours following the Hattiesburg incident, Banks, the accused shooter, was the first suspect to be taken into custody. He was found at a motel nearby the crime scene and arrested on spot. His brother, Curtis, was found two hours later at an apartment building, professing his innocence. He too was arrested on spot.
Both Banks brothers were Hattiesburg residents who lived near the scene of the crime. Curtis Banks was an all-star baseball player who was a student at Hattiesburg High School. Calloway was an alleged student at Jones County Junior College, which is located in Ellisville, Mississippi, but she originally grew up in Beaumont.
The two women who discovered the wounded officers was Pearnell Roberts and Tamika Mills. They had been driving by the crime scene, when one of them noticed a body lying on the ground. That was when they stopped to see what was going on and immediately called 9-1-1.
Mills reported seeing the second officer rolling around on the ground across the street. She said she ran over to check on his injuries, but noticed he was not completely coherent. The only thing he asked Mills in that moment was if he was dying. According to Mills, he answered his own question by stating that he knew he was dying, then asked Mills to hand him his walkie-talkie.
According to police, each suspect has been taken to unidentified jails that are located outside Forrest County until it is time for each to make their first appearance in the Forrest County Justice Court. The tragic loss experienced by the Hattiesburg community is the first one they have had to face in the last 30 years. DuPree stated that a vigil for both officers is being planned for May 11, where the families of these officers as well as the community can come together and grieve over their tragic loss.
By Kameron Hadley
Photo By NatalieMaynor- Creativecommons Flickr License