4 charged in fatal shooting of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, policemen

Posted at 5:54 PM, May 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-10 17:54:54-04

(CNN) — It started as a traffic stop and ended in a hail of gunfire. Now two police officers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, are dead, four suspects are facing charges and a community is mourning.

Officers Benjamin Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 24, were making a traffic stop Saturday evening when they were shot, Mayor Johnny DuPree said. They were taken to a hospital, but did not survive.

Authorities accuse the suspects of fleeing the crime scene, allegedly stealing a police cruiser and using it as a getaway car.

Joanie Calloway, 22, was charged with two counts of capital murder, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said Sunday.

Marvin Banks, 29, also faces two counts of capital murder, along with counts of grand theft auto and felon in possession of a firearm. Police charged his brother, Curtis Banks, with two counts of accessory after the fact of capital murder, the agency said. And a fourth suspect, Cornelius Clark, was charged with obstruction of justice Sunday, the mayor’s office said.

As deputies escorted him into a police station Sunday, Curtis Banks wailed and repeated “I didn’t do it.”

A community mourns
Dean’s and Tate’s bodies have been taken to the state medical examiner’s office for autopsies, while the suspects were taken “to undisclosed jails outside Forrest County to await their initial appearances” in the Forrest County Justice Court on Monday, state police said.

A memorial service is planned for the officers Monday afternoon, the Hattiesburg American reported.

The shooting marked the first time in 30 years that an officer was killed in the line of duty in Hattiesburg, the mayor told CNN.

“The men and women who go out every day to make sure that we are safe were turned on tonight,” DuPree said.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he and his wife, Deborah, were mourning the officers’ deaths.

“This should remind us to thank all law enforcement for their unwavering service to protect and serve. May God keep them all in the hollow of his hand,” he said in a statement.

Former officer of the year slain
Deen, who DuPree said was married with two children, was a K-9 officer who earned his department’s officer of the year honors in 2012, according to The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

Tate was not married, DuPree said. The young officer wrote on Facebook that he graduated from the police academy in June 2014.

“I am now a Police Officer. I would like to thank God, the Police Academy, the Police Department, my family, friends, and love ones,” he wrote.

Judging from his Facebook timeline, Tate was a fan of selfies. He often shared photos of himself posing with family members and bantered with his father over his posts.

“Looks like you been brushing for hours! Nice though!” his father, Ronald Tate, said in a response to a recent photo of his son’s new haircut. Minutes later, the young police officer wrote back: “lol thanks.”

In another Facebook exchange with his son in March, Ronald Tate wrote, “Hey sonnyboi! Call ya dad sometimes! I need a good laugh!” It was a wish his son didn’t take long to grant. About an hour later, Liquori Tate replied, “Calling you now lol.”

Reached by phone, Ronald Tate told CNN he was still in “disbelief” and needed time before speaking to the media. On Facebook, where his timeline had been filled with condolences, he wrote that he’d been in a “dizzy haze” since 10:11 p.m. Saturday.

“My heart has been ripped out of my chest, and torn into a million pieces,” he said. “Gotta get down to MS where my daughter is. She’s absolutely devastated. He was clearly her protector, and friend.”

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Joe Sutton, Ben Brumfield, Carma Hassan and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.