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Banks shooting justified

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January 24, 2007

Moultrie-  The police shooting of a Moultrie store clerk is ruled justified. The Moultrie DA says Willie Banks threatened officers with a large hunting knife when they went to arrest him in November. Police were familiar with Willie Banks violence before they went to arrested him November 16th.

Just days before a bail bondsman tried to arrest Banks. Wearing only underwear, ran outside and tried to attacked the bondsman with a steel bar. Sgt. Bruce Hamm knew Banks was wanted and on the night of the shooting, Sgt. Hamm first called to see if there was a warrant for Banks arrest.

November 16th, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Moultrie Police Sgt. Bruce Hamm had been on routine patrol with officers Scott Cleveland and Justin Lindsey, checking in on convenience stores because there had been several robberies. They had stopped at the One Stop on Fifth Street when Hamm spotted Willie Banks and knew there was a warrant for his arrest.

"I called the county they do have a warrant on him," said Sgt. Bruce Hamm.

After checking the warrant, they approached Banks who went into the One Stop. Inside the store you can see Banks walking with his hands inside his pockets. Officers enter the store. Witness statements to the GBI say officers repeatedly asked Banks to take his hands out of his pockets. When he does he has a hunting knife.

"He's got a knife, got a knife," called one of the officers.

The knife's blade was more than three and a half inches long, despite repeated requests from the officers to drop the knife, you can see Banks approach Officers Cleveland and Lindsey. In his statement Sgt. Hamm said he called for backup hoping to get an officer with a taser to the scene. Banks began walking towards Cleveland, that's when Hamm fired two shots.

"Need back up, man down, man down, man down, need backup," called Hamm.

Hamm said Banks forward momentum carried him and he fired a third shot.

"It's going to be at the Chevron, First Avenue southeast, Fifth Street," called the dispatcher.

Hamm then called for the chain of command.

"Call CIU, call the Chief of Police call, let's get the chain of command out there, get somebody here to rope off this scene.

Hamm said the entire incident took less than 30 seconds from the time they confronted Banks.

The Banks family watched the video with the District Attorney Tuesday, but left immediately after viewing the video.

We spoke with the family Wednesday, they didn't want to comment on the District Attorney's decision until after they had consulted with their attorney Thomas Ledford. Ledford has also not returned calls.

District Attorney David Miller said he believed Banks conduct resulted in his death. He said he's not sure whether Banks simply decided he wasn't going back to jail or whether his mental illness caused him to act the way he did.

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