Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said Tuesday that he will make public his reasons for not charging a man accused of shooting a woman to death last year.
After meeting with Tashara Banister's parents on Monday, Hunter told reporters outside his office that “The family has asked me to make a public statement explaining the reasons why I am not charging Ryan Bishop and I will be doing that.”
Hunter said he will release a written statement on the matter in the next few days, and will notify both the family and the media when it’s ready.
Banister, 22, was found inside Bishop’s truck on June 26, 2012, after police were sent to Simmons First National Bank on West 28th Avenue in response to a reported robbery attempt. Banister was pronounced dead at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body. Click here to read the narrative from the police report (PDF file).
Hunter was responding to a letter from Banister’s parents, Sheila and Vincent Banister, which they delivered in person after a rally and march that began at the Civic Center complex and proceeded down Main Street to the Jefferson County Courthouse. Click here to view the letter.
In that letter, the parents said Hunter’s decision not to charge Bishop “raises concerns in the community about the even handed application of justice. A review of police and crime lab reports and witness statements of the incident leave us confused regarding your basis for not charging Mr. Bishop and the absence of any detailed statement from you explaining your decision naturally gives rise to suspicions that unrelated factors have played a role. This results in a loss of confidence in the community, in the prosecuting attorney’s office, and the justice system in Jefferson County.”
At the Civic Center, Sheila Banister described the fact that Bishop has not been charged as “an injustice” and said there are “many unanswered questions” about the incident.
She said Hunter had previously told her that Bishop would not be charged but didn’t say why, a statement she repeated after the meeting in Hunter’s office. She said she was “not satisfied” with the results of the meeting.
Also at the civic center, Karonda Smith of Stuttgart, who formerly lived in Pine Bluff, said she was there to support the Banister family, and support justice.
She said she would march to “make sure justice is served.”
One of the organizers of the rally and march, Jihad Muhammad, said “If a 22-year-old white female had been killed by a black male, he would be under the jail.”
Bishop is white and Banister was black.
In an initial interview with police, Bishop, then 20, said he did not know Banister, who he said jumped into his truck, took his wallet at gunpoint and forced him to drive to the bank automatic teller machine and ordered him to withdraw more money. Bishop said there was a struggle over the gun and Banister was shot.
In a later interview, Bishop admitted knowing Banister and said he had bought drugs from her in the past. Bishop also told detectives to in the second interview that he initially met Bishop to buy drugs from her but she tried to rob him.
Jack Foster, one of the rally’s organizers, also said that Hunter was not willing to accept the word of Lille Mae-Foots Wilson, who contended that she had been bullied by Latange Long for years before she shot and killed Long at the Central Moloney plant on Jefferson Parkway on July 23, 2012, but was willing to take the word of Bishop regarding the death of Banister.
Foster, who was not allowed in the meeting between Hunter and Banister’s parents, said “this is not over by a long shot” before leaving the courthouse.
Summary of day's events:
Henry "Hank" Wilkins IV