Man indicted for killing gay Atlanta civic activist

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A man accused of gunning down a gay civic activist outside his southwest Atlanta home was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury and now faces life in prison. 

Eric Banks (photo), 17, said he shot 70-year-old Barney Simms twice in the back to defend himself from Simms' sexual advances. But Atlanta police said robbery was the motive behind the April 9 killing and accused Eric Banks of stealing Simms' television, wallet and 2006 Lexus from his Connally Drive home.

On Tuesday, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard announced the indictment of Banks on charges of murder, felony murder, armed robbery and other charges related to Simms' death.

Banks remains in the Fulton County Jail. If convicted, he could face life in prison, Howard said in the statement. 

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.

When the men arrived at Simms' home, the two men sat on a bench in the front yard. That's when Simms touched Banks' arm and groin, and invited him inside, according to testimony from Atlanta police during a hearing in May.

 “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,” Atlanta police Det. Kyle Kleinhenz testified, Fox 5 reported.

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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