Prosecutor: Deadly force justified in Banister slaying


Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter has ruled that Ryan Bishop was justified in using deadly physical force when he shot and killed Tashara Banister last year.

In a two-page statement released Thursday afternoon, (Click here to read the full press release as a PDF file) Hunter said Arkansas law allows the use of deadly physical force on another person if that person is “committing or about to commit a felony involving force or violence or using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.

“The evidence is this case established that Banister was committing an aggravated robbery, which is a felony involving violence or force,” Hunter said. “Therefore, Bishop was justified under (Arkansas Code Statute) 5-2-607 in using deadly physical force.”

Hunter said that another section of the state code provides that deadly force may not be used in self-defense if the person knows they can escape or retreat with complete safety.

“In this case, the evidence established that there was a struggle in the cab of a truck over a gun during the commission of an aggravated robbery when the shots were fired,” Hunter said. “Bishop could not have reasonably believed that he could have retreated with complete safety under those conditions.”

Banister, 22, was pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds on June 26, 2012.

Hunter’s statement came after a meeting with Banister’s parents, Vincent and Sheila Banister, on Monday afternoon following a march from city hall to the county courthouse by a group protesting Hunter’s decision not to file charges against Bishop. The Banisters presented Hunter with a written request asking him to explain his decision.

Contacted by phone Thursday afternoon, Sheila Banister said she was out of town and had not seen Hunter’s statement, and would comment on it Friday after she had a chance to read the statement.

In the statement, Hunter outlined the evidence and statements collected by police, including Bishop’s initial statement in which he denied that he knew Banister and said she had forced her way into his truck at gunpoint. Bishop later told police that he was a drug user and that he had met Banister that night to buy drugs from her, and that he had bought drugs from Banister in the past.

“The evidence verified that Bishop and Banister had a relationship because of the illegal drugs and Banister’s sisters confirmed that Banister sold drugs,” Hunter said.

Several days after the shooting, Bishop, then 20, was arrested on probable cause of hindering apprehension or prosecution for lying to police, but prosecutors released him without charges on that allegation.

Hunter said in his statement that Bishop called Banister on June 26, 2012, and arranged to meet with her to buy cocaine. One of Banister’s sisters confirmed that call and Banister told the sister to “take me to hit this lick.” (Hit a lick is a street term referring to committing a robbery, burglary or theft).

“According to Bishop, when Banister got in his truck, she pulled out a gun, demanded his wallet and money and directed him to an ATM at Simmons Bank on West 28th Street,” Hunter said. “While leaving the initial location, Banister saw her sisters in another car and motioned them to follow.

“Bishop pulled up to the ATM as directed and attempted to withdraw cash, even though he had no money in the bank,” Hunter said. “While at the ATM, Banister placed the gun on the seat as she went through Bishop’s wallet. Bishop grabbed the gun and a struggle ensued for the gun as Banister leaned across the driver’s side of the truck, grasping the wrist of Bishop and forcing him out the driver’s side window. The truck began to roll forward and during the struggle over the gun, Bishop fired the gun four times, striking Banister three times and killing her.”

Hunter said Banister’s two sisters stated that they were across the street when the shots were fired. According to Hunter, the sisters said they contacted police, drove home, swapped cars and later returned to the scene.

The sisters, Takela Johnson, then 26 and Kaishadd Brown, 22, were arrested on probable cause of hindering apprehension or prosecution and like Bishop were released without charges.

A video camera at the ATM partially recorded the events, Hunter said, confirming that Bishop did not have a gun while accessing the ATM.

“The camera also showed that Banister grabbed Bishop’s wrist, and the two were struggling as the truck rolled forward,” Hunter said in the release. “Bishop incurred scratches on his back from the brick wall of the Simmons Bank building as the truck rolled forward when he was being forced out the window by Banister.”

The ownership of the gun was also an important issue, Hunter said, and during the course of the investigation, he said several facts were developed regarding that gun.

Hunter said the gun had been reported stolen in a burglary in Pine Bluff earlier in 2012, and that Banister’s two sisters identified the recovered gun as “being just like Banister’s gun.

“Specifically, one of Banister’s sisters also stated that the recovered gun appeared to be the gun Banister carried at all times and the gun Banister had on her person the night she was killed,” Hunter said.

In addition, Hunter said several months before she was killed, Banister became upset with Bishop because he had shorted her some money or drugs or had paid with counterfeit money.

“She began calling and making threats to Bishop, who was in Florida at the time,” Hunter said. “Bishop asked his girlfriend to get some money and pay Banister, and Bishop’s girlfriend, along with two other friends, met Banister to pay the money. They stated that Banister pulled a gun on them and demanded all their money, and let them go when they complied. One of the witnesses from that robbery stated that the recovered gun looked like the gun Banister used to rob them.”

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Click here to view the narrative from the police report (PDF file)

Click here to view the letter from Banister's parents to the prosecutor

Video from Monday