A stretch of Mississippi 589 in Lamar County – which runs about half a mile north and south of Victory Road, near Oral Baptist Church – will be named in honor of Benjamin Deen, the Hattiesburg Police Department K-9 officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2015.
The measure was approved unanimously by the Lamar County Board of Supervisors at last week’s meeting after being initiated by Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall, who is longtime friends with Deen’s family. During a recent visit with the Deens – who live off Victory Road – Benjamin’s father, Dan, asked Fillingane if the idea could be adopted, at which point Fillingane sent it along to the supervisors.
“I feel really honored to be a part of the process of honoring one of our fallen heroes from our community,” Fillingane said. “BJ and his family attended the same little country church that I did, Oral Baptist Church, which is on that same stretch there on Highway 589.
“So I thought it would be appropriate, since his family lives right off of the Victory Cut-off there and he went to church there for a number of years. I think it’s a fitting memorial to someone who is certainly worthy of our honor and remembrance.”
As part of the recognition, the Mississippi Department of Transportation will place signage with Deen’s name at the beginning and end of the 1-mile stretch of highway.
“I’ve known the Deen family my entire life – his grandfather and my grandfather were good friends – so it was a very easy request for me to ask the board,” District 5 Supervisor Dale Lucus said. “There was no hesitation there at all; the board was 100 percent behind that. (Deen) was a super guy – just phenomenal.”
Deen, along with fellow HPD officer Liquori Tate, were killed May 9, 2015, during a traffic stop near the intersection of East Fourth and Ryan streets in downtown Hattiesburg. Nine people were eventually charged in connection with the officers’ deaths, and Marvin Banks, the man who allegedly pulled the trigger, died later in Forrest County Jail of apparent heart disease.
Three years after the officers’ deaths, a memorial to Deen and Tate was erected in the Briarfield neighborhood near the site of the shooting. One side of the memorial – which is made of carbon steel – is dedicated to Deen, with the other side honoring Tate.
“When you’re on the board of supervisors, it’s an honor to be able to give credit (with the highway dedication) and give meaning to such a meaningless tragedy and loss of life, as BJ had,” Lucus said. “There was no reason or rhyme for that to have happened, and it shouldn’t have happened.
“So to be able to sit on the board and to be able to do these kinds of (honors), it makes it really special.”