Baton Rouge police arrest two teens in beating death

Motive still unclear; suspects might have wanted to see who could hit harder

Baton Rouge police arrested two teens Tuesday accused in the fatal Feb. 1 attack of a 55-year-old Indiana native, a crime that might have been committed simply because the teens wanted to see who hit harder.

John Bannon, 1654 Clear Lake Lane, Baton Rouge, died Friday of injuries sustained when he fell onto the concrete sidewalk during the attack, fractured his skull and suffered a brain hemorrhage, according to the arrest warrant for Windall Lavel Herring.

Bannon’s death leaves his family wondering why a man they described as a compassionate and caring individual was targeted.

“You just want to know why, why him,” said Susan Smith, Bannon’s sister, who resides in Nashville, Tenn. on Wednesday afternoon, choking back tears. “Why him, of all people, (who) didn’t bother anybody.”

Police think the two teens, Herring, 19, and a 15-year-old whose name was not released, attacked Bannon in an attempted robbery, to see who could hit harder or possibly for another reason, police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said.

McKneely stressed police have not yet determined a motive, but are investigating possible reasons for the attack based on witness statements and tips. He added that, to his knowledge, neither suspect gave detectives a reason for the attack.

Police booked Herring, 8211 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, into Parish Prison on counts of second-degree murder and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, the same day they arrested the 15-year-old suspect, McKneely said.

The teen has not been booked yet because he is recovering in a hospital after breaking his arm during a bad landing following a leap out of a second-story window while trying to elude police, McKneely said.

McKneely said Herring and the juvenile were originally wanted for second-degree battery, but that was changed to second-degree murder once Bannon died.

Bannon’s family plans to gather in his hometown of Anderson, Ind., in March to bury his ashes and reflect on the man they loved.

Smith said Bannon moved to Baton Rouge about five years ago because a childhood friend lives in the city and because Bannon was a big LSU sports fan.

Smith said her brother had LSU calendars with game scores and times of upcoming events scribbled on it. He was also an avid Harley-Davidson rider, keeping his motorcycle inside his living room because he did not have a garage.

After moving to the city, he quickly found a job at Chenevert’s True Value Hardware Center on Perkins Road, where Smith was known as a hard worker who enjoyed helping people.

“We were fortunate to have him for the five years he was here,” said Ron Chenevert, owner of the store.

His daughter, Anna Xanders, said her father had a giving nature and outgoing spirit.

Bannon would take scraps of wood and carve tiny figurines out of them to give to people.

He would send Xanders small trinkets in the mail, such as a lost and found ad he found in The Advocate in July for a dog named Anna Banana.

“The postage was worth more than they were,” she laughed.

All of that changed Feb. 1, when Bannon was attacked a few blocks away from his home.

Bannon was found unresponsive on the sidewalk in the 1600 block of Lake Calais Court at 9:34 p.m. Feb. 1, the arrest warrant says.

Officers saw a large pool of blood, and East Baton Rouge Emergency Medical Services personnel were unable to revive him.

Bannon was transported to a hospital and placed in a trauma unit, but medical officials told police they were not optimistic he would survive.

A witness told police that Herring and a juvenile hit Bannon, then fled after Bannon fell and hit the ground, the warrant says.

Xanders and Smith both rushed to Louisiana after hearing the news and spent time by Bannon’s side.

“It was surreal,” Xanders said. “He was always moving, he never sat still so seeing him incapacitated was surreal.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office ruled Bannon’s death a homicide, finding he died from blunt force head trauma that caused the brain hemorrhage.