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One year later, shooting deaths of Hattiesburg officers still haunts community

Lici Beveridge

The Hattiesburg American

 

Hattiesburg police officers carry the coffin of their fallen colleague, Officer Liquori Tate, after the funeral service in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at West Point Baptist Church. Tate and officer Benajmin Deen were killed in the line of duty a week earlier after pulling over a speeding car. Marvin Banks, one of the men accused in the killing of the two officers, died Friday at Forrest General Hospital. (Ryan Moore/WDAM-TV via AP)
Hattiesburg police officers carry the coffin of their fallen colleague, Officer Liquori Tate, after the funeral service in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at West Point Baptist Church. Tate and officer Benajmin Deen were killed in the line of duty a week earlier after pulling over a speeding car. Marvin Banks, one of the men accused in the killing of the two officers, died Friday at Forrest General Hospital. (Ryan Moore/WDAM-TV via AP) AP

The May 9, 2015, shooting deaths of Hattiesburg police officers Liquori Tate and Benjamin J. Deen left an impact not only on their department but on departments across the Pine Belt as well.

"We're different departments, but we're basically all the same," Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said. "When something happens to one, it happens to all of us."

Rigel said a lot of his deputies had worked with Deen and Tate and other officers with HPD, some having worked with the department before moving to Lamar County.

And time isn't always the great equalizer that some might hope, said Rigel, who retired from Hattiesburg Police Department after 21 years on the force.

"It's like one of your brothers — it is one of your brothers. We all bleed with them," he said. "I think it helped draw the law enforcement community closer. I know it has drawn the community closer."

And he knows that firsthand. Rigel and his wife, Donna, were good friends with the Sherrills — Jackie and Charlie, both Hattiesburg police officers — when Jackie Dole Sherrill was shot to death on New Year's Eve in 1984.

Jackie Dole Sherrill was the last HPD officer killed in the line of duty until Deen and Tate were murdered.

Rigel said he remembers when Sherrill was killed like it was yesterday.

"That was 30-something years ago, but it still affects me," he said. "It's right there."

And for HPD officers, having gone that long without losing an officer, the impact of Deen's and Tate's deaths is even more painful.

"Any time you have a significant situation such as that, it is definitely with us," HPD spokesman Lt. Jon Traxler said.

The impact was felt across the Leaf River and into Petal.

"We have several officers that used to work in Hattiesburg and several of our officers knew both of them," said Petal Police Chief Leonard Fuller, who worked with Hattiesburg Police Department for 10 years. "It really hit close to home."

Petal's geographical proximity to Hattiesburg literally meant close to home. Petal's department stepped up to help Hattiesburg police in the hours and days following the incident.

"A lot of our officers came into action and volunteered to work and help find those responsible," Fuller said.

After the suspects were apprehended, the Petal officers and dispatchers continued to volunteer in Hattiesburg so HPD officers and dispatchers could attend Deen's and Tate's funerals.

"Even though it was a tragedy, it brought every agency in this area together," Fuller said.

"There was such an outpouring of support from the community, the schools, the churches, community leaders — the whole public (locally and nationwide) came out and supported the law enforcement community."

Rigel agrees. He said the Pine Belt community continues to show its support to area officers, which is encouraging. Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said the community support sets the Pine Belt apart.

"It highlighted how the community came together," DuPree said. "It is amazing to me what we can do in tragic times, whether they be man-made or an act of God. How they come together and console each other and help each other through these trying times. I think it defines us as a community."

"A good way to honor their legacy is to give back to the community and find your talent," City of Hattiesburg spokeswoman Chinika Hughes said. "Put your best foot forward. That is a way to honor them."

"Both officers were doing what they wanted to do," DuPree said. "It was more than a job to them, it was a calling."

After the shooting deaths, HPD put a renewed effort into making sure each officer is equipped in the best way possible to handle any type of situation.

Read more of this story online at the Hattiesburg American's website.

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