HATTIESBURG — Several hundred law enforcement officers, including several from as far away as New York City, paid their respects Thursday to the family of a slain Mississippi police officer.
The outpouring of support for the family of Patrolman Benjamin J. Deen has come from across the country, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said. Services were being held at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg. He was to be buried in nearby Sumrall.
“This means so much to this family. It shows law enforcement officers are loved by those they serve and protect. It is a shame we can’t do this before these tragic events happen,” DuPree told The Associated Press as he entered the church.
Deen, 34, and Patrolman Liquori Tate, 25, were shot and killed Saturday night during a traffic stop just north of downtown Hattiesburg.
Since then, hundreds have turned out for a memorial, vigil and visitation. Dupree said Wednesday’s visitation was extended two hours to accommodate mourners.
The hour-long service included a slide presentation of family pictures of Deen from childhood to his marriage to his wife, Robin, and raising their son and daughter.
Speakers described Deen as a good man and inspiration to those he met.
“BJ had his moral compass pointed in the right direction,” Assistant Police Chief Frank Misenhelter told the 500 mourners in the church.
“He was a protector. He protected the innocent against oppression. He protected the weak against oppression. He did his job with honor and courage. BJ was passionate about being a police officer. This was his calling. He loved what he did,” Misenhelter said.
The Rev. Dwayne Higgason, pastor of Hattiesburg’s Grace Temple Ministries who led the service, said Deen was “a wonderful man and gentle father.”
He said Deen and Tate were close.
“They worked together. The sacrificed together and they went to heaven together,” Higgason said.
Services for Tate are Saturday at West Point Baptist Church in Hattiesburg. He will be buried in Starkville.
The services for Deen were held a day after a fifth person was arrested in connection with the killings.
Abram Wade “Pete” Franklin was charged with obstruction of justice after he was questioned by Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agents, according to a statement from the state Department of Public Safety.
MBI spokesman Warren Strain said investigators don’t believe Franklin was present for the shooting.
Franklin, a 29-year-old Hattiesburg resident, was jailed Wednesday night awaiting an initial appearance before a judge to assign bond. It was unknown whether Franklin had an attorney.
Four others have already been charged in the shootings.
Marvin Banks, 29, is jailed on two capital murder charges. His 22-year-old girlfriend, Joanie Calloway, and 26-year-old brother, Curtis Banks, are charged as accessories after the fact. A friend, 28-year-old Cornelius Clark, is charged with obstruction of justice.
Investigators say Deen pulled over a Hyundai driven by Calloway for speeding just after sunset Saturday. He decided to search the car, in which Clark and Marvin Banks were passengers, and called Tate for backup. Strain said that after Deen asked all three to get out, Banks shot Deen in the face and Tate in the lower back. Both officers were wearing bullet-resistant vests that couldn’t protect them against the gunshots.
— Jeff Amy and Rogelio Solis