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Mom of accused cop killer in Hattiesburg: 'The drugs had him '

Mom of suspected cop killer: 'You never know what your child is going to do'

The man accused of killing two Hattiesburg, Miss., police officers during a weekend traffic stop was addicted to drugs and possibly heard voices in his head, his mother told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

Mary Smith said she tried again and again to get her son Marvin Banks, 29, who lived with her, to go to Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services for all the marijuana, "spice" and pills he took.

"The drugs had him," Smith said of her son, who was unemployed. He'd told family members he'd started hearing voices, she said. "I offered him help. He just wouldn't go. He sat there and got high every day. I said, 'Come on, let’s go get help.' ... He just wouldn't go."

Banks and three other suspects, charged as accomplices -- including Banks' brother, Curtis, 26 -- made their first court appearances Monday afternoon as Hattiesburg mourned its first officers to be killed in the line of duty in three decades.

Banks was charged with two counts of capital murder, according to the clerk's office for the Forrest County Justice Court. Investigators have not discussed a possible motive for the shooting.

City officials set up a donation fund for the officers' families Monday in addition to a packed memorial vigil for the men.

Residents, officials and the officers' families gathered at Lake Terrace Convention Center on Monday afternoon to honor Officer Benjamin Deen, 34, the police department's 2012 officer of the year, and Liquori Tate, 25, a rookie officer not even a year on the job. 

"They are the watchmen on our walls of this great city," Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, a former deputy sheriff, said at the vigil, which was televised. "They made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people of this city … because it was their job."

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree drew a standing ovation from the audience when he said the nation viewed the town, population 47,556, "not as a Baltimore, not as a Ferguson, they view us as Hattiesburg, Miss." because of officers like Dean and Tate.

"You heard from their classmates, people" who knew them, said DuPree, a Democrat. "They talked about them like they loved them. What a wonderful legacy they lived.… There's been too much divisive things going on. We need to show people we're together."

To the officers' families, who did not speak at the ceremony, DuPree said, "God loves you. We love you. This community loves you. God bless you."

In a statement, U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch -- who was represented at the ceremony by Gregory K. Davis, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi -- said the shootings were "even more tragic" for happening during National Police Week, when fallen officers are honored.

"Officer Benjamin Deen and Officer Liquori Tate were committed and courageous public safety officials, dedicated to their community and devoted to their mission," Lynch said. "They exemplified the very best that our country has to offer."

Colleagues and superiors remembered Deen -- a K9 officer who had been with the department since 2009 -- as an unabashed country boy who never missed a day of work and who saved a family from a burning house in 2012. (Read more about the two slain officers here.)

After one drug bust, Deen, in a characteristic bit of aw-shucks humor, said jokingly of himself, "Not bad for a good old country boy," said Hattiesburg Police Capt. Peggy Sealy, who was visibly emotional as she gave her remarks at the vigil.

"I know today Officer Benjamin Deen would do it all over again," Sealy told the audience.

Officer Jason Jarvis, who went through the police academy with Tate in 2014, was also emotional, but drew laughs from the audience as he recalled how "anybody who knows Tate as a cop knows he loves the police siren more than anyone in the police department."

"Any time you hear him on the radio for a stop, you'd hear the siren," Jarvis said, recalling that during training, after a supervisor warned the recruits not to hit the siren during a practice stop, Tate hit the siren anyway, willing to take the punishment.

"Tate, what's up with the sirens?" Jarvis recalled asking him. He said Tate replied, "Jarvis, I just love the way it makes me feel."

Jarvis added, soberly, "I just want to apologize to the family.… Sorry there was nothing else I could do for him."

The shooting happened after Deen pulled over an Escalade about 8 p.m. Saturday, with brothers Marvin and Curtis Banks inside and Marvin Banks' girlfriend, Joanie Calloway, 22, at the wheel, police say.

Something prompted Deen to call for backup. Tate responded.

One suspect opened fire, said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Then, police say, Marvin Banks stole a patrol car, driving the vehicle for a few blocks before abandoning it.

The three suspects were arrested within a short time at three locations.

Calloway had initially been arrested on suspicion of murder, but on Monday, she was charged only with one count of accessory after the fact to the shooting, the clerk’s office told The Times. Her bond was set at $75,000.

Marvin Banks was denied bond for the capital murder charges, according to the clerk’s office. He also was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and with grand larceny on the allegations that he fled in the police cruiser. Banks had been convicted in 2012 for felony possession of a stolen gun, the clerk’s office said.

Curtis Banks was charged with accessory after the fact of capital murder, and his bond was revoked because of a 2013 drug case, according to the clerk’s office.

"No sir, I didn't do it," Curtis Banks said Sunday in response to reporters’ questions as he was led into a police station, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

A fourth suspect, Cornelius Clark, 28, was arrested Sunday and charged Monday with one count of rendering criminal assistance, and his bond was set at $75,000, according to the clerk’s office.

Of the 50 officers killed by gunfire in the U.S. in 2014, eight were slain during traffic stops and 15 in ambushes, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks police fatalities.

Smith, the mother of the Banks brothers, told The Times she was shocked by the news of her sons' arrests.

"They was good boys. Marvin just got on them drugs so bad," Smith said. "We noticed changes in him. He was never violent."

She said Marvin Banks had told his younger brother not to do harder drugs, and that both brothers "don't like the police none much."

Smith said she mourned on behalf of the officers' families.

"I'm sorry for both families. I sent my prayers out to both of them," Smith said. "You never know what your child is going to do. You never know."

Times staff writer Matthew Teague contributed to this report.

Follow @MattDPearce for national news.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

3:43 p.m.: This story has been updated to add court confirmation of the charges and of the bail that was set, denied or revoked for the suspects.

This story was originally published at 3:09 p.m.

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