Friend describes tense scene of jambalaya, chicken dinner with New Orleans murder suspect _lowres

Solomon Banks

Solomon Banks wanted to have one last meal on Earth.

Just as Banks confessed to killing his brother on Sunday, his friend Jeffrey Wilson said, he placed his revolver on a chair in Wilson’s house and sat down for a meal of jambalaya, macaroni and barbecue chicken.

Wilson and Banks have been friends for more than 30 years. As Banks gave his stunning admission — “Man, I just killed my brother” — he also told Wilson that this supper would be his last.

Wilson tried to joke that idea off, but he knew Banks was serious.

Wilson didn’t know, and he didn’t want to ask, what could have prompted Banks to shoot his brother in the chest at their family home in the 2300 block of Annunciation Street about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, then flee a few blocks to his friend’s house.

Wilson said he feared for his friend, a hard-working carpenter who usually has a good disposition.

“Yes, my life was in jeopardy,” said Wilson, 49. “At the same time, I didn’t want the police to kill him.”

Wilson was convinced that Banks was hoping to provoke the police into a shooting, so he got to work inside the house on Second Street. When his friend went to the bathroom, he said, he unloaded the bullets from the revolver and placed a secret 911 call for help.

New Orleans police started for the house, which is not far from where Sammie Banks, 61, was shot. Inside the residence on Second Street, Banks and Wilson continued their meal.

Wilson said that sitting in his chair, listening to Banks make his confession, was hard.

The night before Banks shot his brother, he went out with his girlfriend, Wilson said. Both had a good time, and it seemed nothing was wrong, according to Wilson.

Banks’ biggest flaw, according to Wilson, was a weakness for drinking and Sunday second-line parades — one of which he attended before the shooting.

“Solomon, when he’s not drinking, he’s on a different level,” Wilson said. “Talking. Communicating. A good person.”

As the pair dined, Banks called his girlfriend and put her on a speaker phone.

According to an arrest warrant, Banks told a witness — presumably the girlfriend — over the phone, “I love you. I’ll see you in heaven.”

Wilson still did not have any answers about the shooting when Banks lay down for a rest. As police surrounded the house, Wilson said, he went outside and told officers that he had removed the revolver’s bullets.

Sixth District Cmdr. Ronnie Stevens said the officers still faced a tense situation. Their training tells them to be ready for every possibility.

“You wouldn’t believe that until you could actually confirm that on your own,” Stevens said about the supposedly empty revolver.

Police kept their composure and began talking to Banks as the department’s Special Operations Division was mobilizing, Stevens said. Eventually, officers were able to persuade Banks to surrender without sending in the SWAT team.

Banks walked to the door, where he dropped the gun, Stevens said. He was taken into custody about 6:15 p.m., according to an arrest register.

“All of the officers on the scene did an excellent job,” Stevens said. “We wanted to bring him to face the charges, and justice, in the safest way possible.”

Wilson also praised those officers, as well as NOPD dispatcher Kelly Santamarina, who he said kept him calm despite the tense situation.

Banks was booked on a second-degree murder count and is now in the Orleans Parish jail in lieu of $350,000 bail.

Wilson said he is speaking out about his friend because he wants people to know that Banks is basically a good person, despite the crime of which he is accused.

Wilson hopes Banks will be placed on suicide watch and get the help he needs.

A Sheriff’s Office spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about whether Banks is under special watch in the jail.

“To be honest, he didn’t want to go to jail,” Wilson said. “But God had other plans.”