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Motive Still a Mystery in Killing of Two Mississippi Police Officers

Authorities have filed capital murder charges against a man and woman accused of gunning down two police officers in a routine traffic stop gone horribly wrong.

by Gillian Mohney
May 10 2015, 7:55pm

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Mississippi authorities have filed capital murder charges against a man and woman accused of gunning down two police officers Saturday night in a routine traffic stop gone horribly wrong.

Marvin Banks, 29, and Joanie Calloway, 22, were each charged with two counts of capital murder on Sunday for the deaths of police officers Benjamin Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 25, according to the Associated Press. Banks' brother Curtis Banks, 26, was charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of capital murder.

What caused the traffic stop to turn violent still remains a mystery. All three suspects were traveling in the same vehicle — reportedly a Hyundai Azera Limited with a retired Army military plate — when police stopped them around 8pm Saturday evening, Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain told the AP. 

Initial reports said Deen pulled over the car for speeding and then called for backup, which is when Tate arrived.

"We know the officer called for back up for a reason," Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said during a press conference. The mayor said he would not speculate about why Deen asked for help. "We don't want to and we will not jeopardize this investigation by guessing."

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DuPree said Calloway was driving when the car was pulled over. According to Reuters, Mississippi state court records indicate the Banks brothers are felons with multiple arrests for firearms charges.

Marvin Banks was also charged Sunday with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and with grand theft for taking a police cruiser after the shooting.

"He absconded with a Hattiesburg police cruiser. He didn't get very far, three or four blocks and then he ditched that vehicle," Strain said.

Strain did not immediately respond to calls from VICE News seeking further comment. All three suspects were arrested early Sunday morning after a manhunt, according to local reports.

Hattiesburg residents Tamika Mills and Pearnell Roberts reportedly found the wounded officers shortly after the shooting, according to the Hattiesburg American. Mills said she stopped after seeing one of the officers lying on the ground.

"We just saw that one, but in the course of me being on the phone with 911, I turned and I saw another officer across the street rolling on the ground," Mills said. "[Roberts] ran across the street to check on him. He wasn't all the way alert but he asked her, 'Am I dying? I know I'm dying. Just hand me my walkie-talkie.'"

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Tate had only been on force in Hattiesburg for about a year after graduating the police academy last spring. Deen had previously been awarded "Officer of the Year," according to local news reports.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant released a statement mourning the two officers on Sunday.

"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," Bryant said. 

Shortly after the shooting, DuPree told reporters this was the first time in more than 30 years that a Hattiesburg officer had been killed in the line of duty.

"We want to ask everybody to pray for these families. We want everybody to pray for police officers not only here but around the United States," DuPree told reporters.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a site that tracks the deaths of law enforcement officers, 10 police officers have now been killed by gunfire in the line of duty nationwide in 2015.

Follow Gillian Mohney on Twitter: @gillianmohney