Accused killer: Gay panic made me shoot Atlanta man

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The 17-year-old man accused of killing gay civic activist Barney Simms said he shot the 70-year-old victim twice in the back to defend himself from Simms' sexual advances. 

But Atlanta police said robbery was the motive behind the shooting and accused Eric Banks of stealing Simms' television, wallet and black Lexus from his Connally Drive home in southwest Atlanta. 

New details about the April 9 killing came during a preliminary hearing on Tuesday when an Atlanta police detective testified about how they tied Banks to Simms' killing, according to WSB.

Banks met Simms two days before the shooting and the pair exchanged phone numbers. On April 9, Banks called Simms to pick him up. The pair ate at a nearby Waffle House about 2 p.m. before returning to Simms' home. Less than an hour later, Banks is accused of gunning Simms down. Neighbors found the body in hedges in Simms' neatly manicured yard.

Atlanta police Det. Kyle Kleinhenz testified on Tuesday that Banks told investigators that when the men arrived at Simms' home, they sat in the front yard and Simms touched Banks and invited him inside the house.

“They were on the bench and he began touching him. Mr. Simms asked him to go inside for something to drink,” Kleinhenz testified, according to WSB.

Kleinhenz also said that Banks told an aunt that Simms touched his arm and groin as they sat on the bench, according to Fox 5.

“As they went inside, Mr. Simms kept making comments about the way Eric looked, about his backside and at that point, Eric pulled out a weapon and shot him in the back,” Kleinhenz testified, Fox 5 reported.

Banks told police that he needed to defend himself, WSB reported.

“Eric said that he felt threatened, took out a gun and shot Barney Simms,” Kleinhenz said in court, according to WSB.

But police and prosecutors said Banks' motivation was stealing the TV, wallet and car from Simms and that his story about defending himself from the sexual advances was a rouse for the robbery. Investigators said in court that a fingerprint of Banks was found on Simms' wallet when it was recovered after the killing.

After the hearing, a judge ruled there was enough evidence to continue with the case. Banks faces six charges, including murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Four days after the killing, Atlanta police released video surveillance of the two men at Waffle House and asked for the public's help in identifying the man that turned out to be Banks. His family identified Banks to police and a fugitive squad arrested him where he lived with the family in an apartment on Plaza Lane about two miles from Simms' home.

Court documents say that Banks was a student at Washington High School in southwest Atlanta and admitted to recent drug use when he was arrested on April 14.

Simms was a former executive with the Atlanta Housing Authority and served on several city-related boards and commissions as well as neighborhood and civic groups.


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