Is Three Times the Charm for Eggleston?
November 10, 2002
Pierce County Sheriff deputy John Bananola was killed during a drug raid on the home of Brian Eggleston on October 16, 1995. Eggleston was convicted of dealing drugs as a result of the raid. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound like a good scenario in which to defend Eggleston against the murder charges he faces for killing Officer Bananola. But, there is so much more to this story, like why they raided Eggleston’s home, and what they found.
Brian was a bartender, and dabbled in marijuana, occasionally even selling small amounts of it. His brother, Brent, is a deputy in the Sheriff's department. They both resided with their parents during 1995. The Sheriff’s department, wanting to know if their deputy was involved in dealing drugs, obtained a warrant to raid the house that is in the jurisdiction of the Tacoma Police Department. They went in early on that fateful morning, and caught the Egglestons asleep.
Brian emerged from his bedroom with a gun. Shots were fired. Officer Bananola was dead, and Eggleston was seriously wounded. The search turned up a small amount of marijuana, some paraphernalia, and the fact that Brent Eggleston hadn’t lived there in over two months.
Eggleston was tried for the drugs and aggravated murder. The jury convicted him on the drugs, but hung up 10-2 in favor of aggravated first degree murder. He was given an extraordinary sentence of 20 years for the drugs, and retried for aggravated murder.
He was found innocent of aggravated murder (which would have meant life in prison or death), but was convicted of second degree murder. An appeals court ruled he hadn’t been given a fair trial, and overturned his conviction. There were improper jury instructions, presentation of illegally obtained evidence, and juror misconduct, in the higher court’s opinion.
Brian Eggleston now faces his third murder trial. As in his first two trials, prosecutors are alleging that Eggleston knew Officer Bananola was a cop, and virtually executed him. The defense contends that Eggleston was awakened by the cops crashing through the door, and thought he was shooting an armed intruder.
Jurors, of course, will not be presented the illegally obtained evidence. They also will not be told that the Pierce County Sheriff’s department changed its operating procedure regarding drug raids, including not wearing dark masks and not rushing in quite so recklessly. Brian’s peers in the jury will also not know that the county, without admitting fault, paid Bananola’s daughter $250,000, and Eggleston’s mom $100,000.
Officer Bananola did not deserve to die, but it seems that his blood is as much, if not more, on the hands of the sheriff. I feel very sorry for the loss the Bananola family suffered. I also feel sorry for the Eggleston family, and don’t think Brian Eggleston poses much of a threat to society as either a murderer or a drug dealer.
Two families will never again have what they once had, and it was over a small amount of marijuana and some really bad information. It’s a travesty of justice that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t acknowledge the sheriff’s department’s contribution to this tragedy, and the results of the first two trials, and drop this case. Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne says we "can’t turn our backs" because "the impact is too great on the community when an officer is killed in the line of duty."
I agree that we can’t turn our backs. We must face up to the fact that an over-zealous law enforcement agency did not find what they were looking for, and an officer died as a result.
Oh well, what are two families compared to getting less than an ounce of weed off the streets? Eggleston may have fired the shot that killed Bananola, but it’s not so clear that he caused his death. Maybe three times is the charm for him.
Some other things I've written about: