Commanding officer describes officer shootings as 'worst night' of her life

Commanding officer describes officer shootings as 'worst night' of her life
Peggy Sealy consoles Frank Misenhelter inches from where Benjamin Deen's body lay. Source: Ryan Moore WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A year ago today, May 9, two Hattiesburg Police Officers were shot during a traffic stop.

Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate died from gunshot wounds they received at East 4th and Bouie Street in downtown Hattiesburg.

Before that night, a Hattiesburg officer hadn't been killed in the line of duty in over 30 years.

Capt. Peggy Sealy was on duty that night, she was the commanding officer of their platoon.

"That night was the hardest night in my entire career, in my entire life," said Hattiesburg Police Department Capt. Peggy Sealy.

Sealy often referred to Deen, 34, and Tate, 25, as her babies.

"We were family, we all joked, laughed and always had such a great time, they were both big kids with huge hearts," said Sealy.

Sealy's recount of May 9th, 2015:

Just before 8 p.m. veteran Officer Benjamin Deen was patrolling down Bouie Street in downtown Hattiesburg.

"I heard Deen make a traffic stop, I didn't think nothing about it," said Sealy.

Sealy was responding to an alarm call at another location when the radio went off.

"I heard something on the radio, I didn't know what it was, I couldn't make out what it was," said Sealy.

It was a call for shots fired.

"Sergeant David Speights was the first officer on the scene, he called for medical, AAA Ambulance, urgent, urgent… then he advised officers down…at that time I knew it was serious," said Sealy.

At that moment it was serious. Deen and Tate had been shot and emergency responders were doing everything they could to save them.

"I called Assistant Chief Frank Misenhelter, I briefed him, I tell him get to the scene immediately, he's in disbelief of what's going on," Sealy said. I'm telling him get here now, I tell him Deen's dead. I could hear it in his voice, I said he's dead."

That night, just inches from where Deen was shot, Sealy and Misenhelter kneeled by the blood left on the sidewalk.

"That moment, that photo is one of the most important photos from my career," said Sealy. "It's a strong bond between law enforcement, it's a strong bond, and just the closeness that we had at that moment is unspeakable."

Friends and family gathered at Forrest General Hospital as Tate was in surgery.

Sealy was in the hallway talking with Maj. Billy Lane, when more news arrived.

"I would say the second worst of the bad news, Tate has passed. So, now I got two dead officers," said Sealy. "Everything was good at the hospital, there was nothing else I could do. I needed to do my job."

It was then that Sealy left the hospital and headed back to the scene to work with other officers.

"We had a bigger job to do, that job was to catch the people who did this, and it was my goal to catch them before morning," said Sealy.

That goal was achieved, before sunrise the driver Joanie Calloway, 22, was in custody, as well as the alleged trigger man, Marvin Banks, 29, and his brother Curtis Banks, 26.

"I heard it on the radio that he was in custody, it was like…Yes! You know, it was a relief. But it wouldn't bring them back, it wouldn't bring them back," said Sealy.

Throughout Sealy's career she said she has never had a night like that.

"All the training in the world is running through your head. You don't want to mess up, you want to do everything by the book," said Sealy. "I have listened to all my supervisors over my 28 plus year career, and nothing that anyone said can prepare you for the unspeakable."

When looking back on that night, and in the events over the past year, Sealy says one thing that sticks out to her as being the most important.

"Training, to train, train, and train some more, for all of our officers, old, new and the ones that have yet to come, I cannot stress that enough," said Sealy.

Sealy was set to retire early in 2015, but the events of May 9th, 2015 pushed her to stay longer.

"I wanted to and had to stay with my brothers at the department, I couldn't leave, it wasn't time," said Sealy.

Sealy retired in October of 2015.

"Deen and Tate will always be part of me, that day was the worst day of my life," said Sealy. "The closeness of law enforcement showed after those events and we were able to come together as one, but no matter what, my babies were still gone."

"I think about that night every day, there hasn't been a day that has passed that I haven't, and for them, I just want them to know, I love them, and miss them," said Sealy.