Suspects in Mississippi police killings due in court

Reuters News
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Posted: May 11, 2015 2:51 PM

By Therese Apel

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (Reuters) - A vigil to honor two police officers gunned down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, drew law enforcement officers from across the state on Monday, while the man and woman accused in the deaths over the weekend were due in court on murder charges.

Marvin Banks, 29, and Joanie Calloway, 22, were arrested on two charges each of capital murder on Sunday, a day after two police officers were shot to death during a routine traffic stop, officials said.

The shooting, which was the first killing of a police officer in Hattiesburg in more than 30 years, shook the southern Mississippi city of about 48,000 people. Mayor Johnny DuPree said information provided by the community was key to the swift arrests.

The shooting happened on Saturday evening, after Officer Benjamin Deen, 34, stopped a gold Cadillac Escalade and Officer Liquori Tate, a 25-year-old recent police academy graduate, arrived as backup.

One of the officers was shot in the face and the other was hit under his vest, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported, citing officials. Both officers were pronounced dead at a Hattiesburg hospital.

At least one of the suspects fled in a police car that was later found abandoned. Officials have declined to discuss a possible motive.

Deen, 34, a married father of two, was named Hattiesburg's officer of the year in 2012. Tate, who had been on the force less than a year, was remembered by his stepfather as a dedicated and good-hearted policeman.

"He knew how to treat people with dignity and with great humanity," Bernell Ross told CNN.

Banks' brother Curtis, 26, was also arrested and charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of capital murder. A fourth person, Cornelius Clark, was arrested and booked on an obstruction of justice charge, officials said.

State court records show the Banks brothers are felons with multiple arrests for firearms charges.

Calloway had been driving the Escalade at the time of the shooting, DuPree said.

Deen and Tate are the ninth and 10th law enforcement officers in the United States shot and killed by assailants in 2015, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a non-profit organization that tracks police deaths in the line of duty.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement that the Justice Department stood ready to assist with the investigation into the "devastating" killings.

(Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Doina Chiacu)