A close family friend of a police officer shot dead in Mississippi said his friend did not have a mean bone in his body, and he takes comfort in the fact that he died doing something he loved.
Sammie Scales said he was watching the news Sunday morning when he first heard about a shooting in his hometown in Mississippi. He started listening when he heard that the shooting happened in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and started making calls to back home when he heard the name "Liquori."
“When I heard the name Liquori, I couldn’t believe… I didn’t want to think it was Ronald’s son,” Scales said.
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Liquori Tate, 25, and Benjamin J. Deen, 34, were shot after Deen pulled a car over for a speeding violation and called Tate in for backup. Early Sunday, four suspects were arrested and charged, and two were charged with capital murder.
Scales received a call from Liquori’s parents Sunday morning. He grew up with Ronald and Yolanda Tate and considered them members of his extended family. Scales said he knew Liquori from the day he was born up until his death and thought of him as a nephew.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Scales said.
Liquori’s father Ronald confirmed that his son had died.
"So we laughed together, we cried together…thinking about how, you know, this could've been my son being killed,” Scales said.
Scales said Tate wasn't even on duty last night when he left to help a fellow officer conduct a traffic stop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“And these three cowards got out of their SUV ran into the woods, two kept running, one stayed back so when officers went in to get them, to catch them, the one person that stayed back opened fire, and I call them cowards because that's exactly what they are, cowards,” Scales said.
Scales said Liquori had just graduated from the police academy a year ago before he went on to become an officer. He said his friend was the type of officer that would give someone a warning before writing them a ticket.
“There was not a mean bone in this kid’s body,” Scales said.
He said Liquori wanted to protect and serve and considered it his calling.
“It's just so surreal,” said Scales through tears. “Today's Mother's Day, and I know Yolanda wanted to be able to hear her son say Happy Mother's Day to her. Her and her daughter was headed to Hattiesburg from Starkville, when they got the call that he was shot, but prior to them getting there, Liquori died."
Liquori’s father Ronald said he found out his son was shot through the news media, not through any officials.
Scales said in the past he has thought of officers negatively after hearing several news stories. But knowing Liquori personally changed the way he thought of the story.
“When it hits home and you actually know the officer, it’s totally different and it changes everything,” Scales said. “It’s just been so surreal for me.”
The timing is especially difficult for Liquori’s parents, Scales said, as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day roll around.
“We talked about how life was going to be different from him now, not having a son,” Scales said. “We talked about Father's Day coming up and him having his daughter around but not his son."
Scales said it comforted him knowing that his friend died doing what he loved, but said he will miss the young man’s smiling face and gentle soul.
“Protect and serve, he took it seriously,” Scales said. “It was about, what I can I do to be a role model for the kids in this community and where I can do the most good, and he choose being an officer."
Scales says he plans to fly out to Mississippi later this week or early the following week to visit Tate’s family and attend his funeral service.