District attorney seeks justice in HPD shootings

District attorney seeks justice in HPD shootings
District Attorney Patricia Burchell has the responsibility of bringing justice for Deen and Tate. Source: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One year after two Hattiesburg Police officers were killed during a traffic stop, the wheels of justice are still turning.

Officers Benjamin Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 25, were killed on May 9, 2015 on East 4th Street in downtown Hattiesburg.

By the end of May, authorities charged nine people in connection to the shooting deaths.

Forrest-Perry County District Attorney Patricia Burchell is responsible to see that Deen and Tate's killers are brought to justice, but the road has not been easy.

"That was one of the most difficult days in our history with this office, it's a day that none of us will ever forget," 12th Circuit Court District, District Attorney Patricia Burchell said. "As prosecutors we know that we are going to face violence and death in this job, but the one thing that we never want to face is that. That involves police officers, and that's what that day is for us."

Burchell was at the scene that night, in tears and grieving. With officers by her side, still trying to process emotions, Burchell had to focus on finding justice.

"The agencies that came together that night, they had lost two of their brothers, and in their grief, in the horror of what happened, we had local agencies, we had state agencies, we had federal agencies, they all came together that night, to seek the persons who had committed this horrible act," Burchell said.

By the end of May, in a combined effort by multiple agencies, nine suspects were in custody.

Joanie Calloway, 23, was arrested May 9, 2015. She was originally charged with two counts of capital murder. Her charges were lessened to one count of accessory after the fact. Calloway was the driver of the car during the traffic stop. According to court records, she helped Marvin Banks, knowing he killed two police officers. Her bond was set at $75,000, and she bonded out on July 17, 2015. Her trial was set to begin in May, but has been rescheduled until late summer.

Marvin Banks, 29, was arrested May 9, 2015. Banks was charged with two counts of capital murder, one count of grand theft auto and one count of a felon in possession of a firearm. Marvin is the alleged trigger man. He was denied bond on the capital murder charges, and bond was set at $100,000 for possession of a weapon and grand larceny during his initial appearance. Banks was housed at the Forrest County Jail, where he died Dec. 11, 2015, from what an autopsy showed was severe heart disease.

Curtis Banks, 27, was arrested May 10, 2015. He was charged with one count of accessory after the fact of capital murder. His bond was set at $100,000 in connection to the shooting deaths. Curtis allegedly hid his brother Marvin, at the North Gate Inn on Highway 49 North in the Hub City. His previous bond was revoked, due to a previous drug possession charge from 2013.

Cornelius Clark, 29, was arrested May 10, 2015. Clark was another passenger in the car during the traffic stop on East 4th Street with Marvin and Calloway. He was charged with obstruction of justice and hindering prosecution. He was indicted for hindering prosecution in the first degree. Clark allegedly destroyed the shirt Marvin was wearing during the shooting. His bond was set at $75,000 and he posted that bond on June 10, 2015. According to Burchell, a mental evaluation has been ordered to see if he is capable of standing trial, and no new date has been set, pending those results.

Abram Wade "Pete" Franklin, 30, was arrested on May 13, 2015. He was charged with rendering criminal assistance. Franklin's bond was set at $75,000, and he has been out of jail, according to Burchell. His case was transferred to the 15th District Circuit Court to District Attorney Hal Kittrell, after investigators discovered his residence sits in Lamar County.

"The apartment complex he lives in actually sits in both Forrest and Lamar Counties, once we were reviewing the case files, it was discovered and we transferred it over to the 15th," Burchell said.

Douglas McPhail, 22, was arrested May 15, 2015. He was charged with first degree hindering prosecution and conspiracy. He is accused of conspiring with Anquanette Alexander, 19, to dispose of the shirt that Marvin wore during the shooting. McPhail was given a $15,000 bond, which he made and remains free. He is scheduled for trial in Forrest County on July 26, 2016.

Anquanette Alexander, 19, was arrested May 15, 2015. She was charged with first degree hindering prosecution and conspiracy. She was accused of conspiring with McPhail in the role of destroying evidence. She posted a $10,000 bond and was released. Her trial date was set for early May, but it has been pushed to late summer, according to Burchell.

Jimmy "Jimbo" Brady Jr., 23, was arrested May 15, 2015. He was charged with possession of a stolen weapon, a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, which was allegedly stolen from his father, Jimmy Brady Sr.

According to the indictment, Brady Jr., transferred or sold that weapon to Marvin. The weapon was recovered on Railroad Street by a city maintenance crew that was doing landscaping. That weapon was tested at the state crime lab in Biloxi, and it was determined to be the murder weapon. His bond was revoked due to a previous aggravated domestic violence charge. Brady is still being housed at the Forrest County Jail, with a trial date set for July 27, 2016.

Broderick Varnado, 26, was charged with accessory after the fact of capital murder and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. His bond was set at $90,000. Varnado, whom authorities said hid the murder weapon, was convicted of sexual battery in August 2014. He is free on bond, and his trial date has been set for late summer, according to Burchell.

"It's been a challenge to put these cases together, there are a lot of moving parts, with a lot of different agencies involved," Burchell said. "The ones remaining in Forrest County, they are indicted, they are all set to be resolved either by trial or by plea, I would say in the next few months."

Burchell described the year since Deen and Tate were killed as a life changing experience.

"This past year has been extremely difficult, and I'm different, I mean you look at things differently when something like that happens, you walk away from it a little bit different inside, and I'll never forget and I should never forget," Burchell said. "We will seek justice for these two young men who gave their life, and for their families, and that's what we do in this office and that's what we will do in this case."