Man held in deaths of Mississippi officers had criminal past

Ronnie Bevill sifts through the wreckage looking for anything salvageable from his aunts home Monday, May 11, 2015. A section of the D&J Mobile Home Park in Nashville, Ark., was destroyed after a EF2 tornado touched down late Sunday night. (Evan Lewis/The Texarkana Gazette via AP)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Marvin Banks had already done two stints in state prison and faced an unserved indictment on drug charges when a Hattiesburg police officer pulled his girlfriend over for speeding just after sundown Saturday.

But instead of escaping the possibility of more prison time, the 26-year-old Banks is now jailed without bond on two capital murder charges. Authorities say he fatally shot Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate.

Banks pleaded guilty in 2010 to possession of a stolen handgun. He got a split sentence and was released from prison after serving about a year. But he returned to prison after violating terms of his release and faced a pending indictment on drug charges when the car he was riding in was stopped.

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said Monday that when Deen stopped a Hyundai driven by 22-year-old Joanie Calloway, he decided to search the car and asked Banks, Calloway and passenger Cornelius Clark to get out.

At that point, Strain said, Banks shot Deen and Tate, who was backing up Deen. Both officers were wearing bullet resistant vests that couldn’t protect them against the gunshots. Deen was shot in the face, and Tate was shot in the lower back, Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict said.

Banks then stole a police cruiser, which he abandoned a few blocks away. Police later arrested him at motel more than 5 miles away.

The charges could be the bottom of what Banks’ mother, Mary Smith, describes as a downward spiral for her son. Smith said that when she saw the booking photos of her 26-year-old son, she knew something was off.

“He was sick and out of his head, and I tried to get him some help,” she said Monday morning on the steps of the Forrest County Courthouse, where she had gone to find out more information about the arrest.

Marvin Banks had been smoking synthetic marijuana, known as spice, every day, Smith said.

“He was on that spice. He was on every drug there was. Spice, powder, marijuana, drinking,” she said.

Calloway had been charged with two counts of murder, but authorities decreased those charges Monday. Clark, 28, is charged with obstruction. Banks’ older brother, 29-year-old Curtis Banks, is charged as an accessory to murder, apparently for driving his brother and Clark to the locations where they were arrested.

Strain said all four have given statements to police.

At an initial court appearance Monday, Forrest County Justice Court Judge Gay Polk-Payton denied bond to Marvin Banks. Banks is also charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and with grand theft for fleeing a few blocks in a squad car after the shooting.

Polk-Payton set Curtis Banks’ bond at $100,000. But, like his brother, Curtis Banks faced a pending drug charge, and Polk-Payton revoked that bond, meaning Curtis Banks is also likely to remain in jail. The judge set $75,000 bonds for both Calloway and Clark.

All four have been assigned public defenders.

More than 1,000 people filled a hall at the Hattiesburg convention center Monday for a memorial for the officers. With photos of the uniformed men projected above the stage, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant — himself a former sheriff’s deputy — said the city was enduring a difficult, sad time.

“We will persevere. We will prevail,” Bryant said.

Mourning for the officers is likely to continue this week. Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home said the 34-year-old Deen, a former Hattiesburg “Officer of the Year” who was married and had two children, will be buried Thursday after a funeral in nearby Sumrall.

A funeral home in McComb says arrangements for the 25-year-old Tate, who graduated from the police academy last year, would be released Tuesday.

Marvin Banks and his 6-year-old son lived with Smith, who works the night shift at a nursing home. She said she was resting before work when she got a call Saturday night that her son, known as “Big Boy,” was involved in the shootings.

After that, Curtis called and said he had nothing to do with it and had been at his apartment at the time.

Smith said Marvin was attacked several years ago by a man who hit him in the head with a pipe. The reason for the attack wasn’t clear, but he spent time in intensive care.

She said she repeatedly urged him to get help for his drug addiction and apparent mental illness, but he wouldn’t go.

Katie Walmon, the mother of Marvin’s son, said he had changed.

“He said he was hearing voices in his head. I say it was the devil,” she said.

Smith said that after Curtis’ arrest, he complained to her that officers had kicked him repeatedly, stripped him of his clothes and were holding him in cold cell. She has not talked to Marvin since his arrest. The mother said officers often stop young black men without cause in Hattiesburg, sometimes simply to ask them what they are doing.

“The way police here in Hattiesburg harass young black men, you could tell something was going to happen, but I never thought it would be my sons,” she said.

Police didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call Monday.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday that the officers’ deaths “is made even more tragic by the fact that, on the day they were killed this past Saturday, the country began observing Police Week — a time when we pause to remember and honor the more than 20,000 law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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