Myra Flemmer and her 19-year old autistic son were home last Friday evening when her boyfriend of almost a year, Steven Bannister, came over to eat dinner and bet on horse races online.
Three hours and a bottle of vodka later, Bannister was being rushed to the hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds and a Bismarck police officer had been mortally wounded in the street.
In an exclusive interview with the Great Plains Examiner, Flemmer recounted the events of the night that Sgt. Steve Kenner, 56, a 32-year veteran of the Bismarck Police Department, was shot and killed.
“I feel that this cop was called to protect me, and he was doing his job,” Flemmer said Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like it should’ve been me.”
Flemmer said everything seemed normal at first on Friday night as Bannister gambled and drank from a 1.75 liter bottle of Burnett’s vodka. But she said the calm of the evening was broken when Bannister became irritated by a visitor and a series of phone calls and began calling her names. He later put a knife to her neck when he thought she was on the phone with police.
It wasn’t the first time the 52-year-old Bannister had shown a violent streak, Flemmer said.
“I’d seen red flags of abuse, but did not know he would be capable of murdering anybody,” she said.
Flemmer described Bannister as a controlling person who had told her she wasn’t supposed to have friends. He didn’t trust her friends or many other people, she said.
“He held me hostage one night,” she said. “He told me if I called the police that he had grenades to blow up the whole block.”
At the time, Flemmer didn’t believe Bannister had grenades. But after what she saw and heard last Friday, she’s not so sure.
The evening became tense when one of Flemmer’s friends, a woman, stopped by unannounced for a visit, Flemmer said. Bannister became immediately irritated with the intrusion into his evening and began calling Flemmer a whore, she said.
Flemmer repeatedly asked him not to call her names like that in front of her son. Bannister continued berating her, though he eventually settled back into his routine of online gambling, she said.
A little while later, when Flemmer received a call from another one of her sons, Bannister’s mood soured again, she said.
“He went out to the kitchen and grabbed a knife out of the cupboard. Then he grabbed me by the neck and held the knife to my neck,” Flemmer said, adding that Bannister threatened to slice her throat if she called the police.
Flemmer said Bannister apparently thought she was on the phone with the police, but instead she was speaking with her son.
“He then pulled it (the knife) from my neck and put it to my stomach,” she said.
Flemmer said she begged Bannister to put down the knife. At that point, she said, he grabbed the phone from her and hung it up. He went back to the computer until Flemmer’s phone rang again; this time, it was Flemmer’s other son calling.
“I told him (Bannister), you better let me answer that or they’re gonna’ know something is wrong,” she said.
When Flemmer answered the phone call from her son, Bannister was still holding the knife against her.
“He grabbed up the back of my hair and put the knife to the back of my neck,” she said.
Bannister kneeled down by her and put the knife under his knee. Flemmer immediately scrambled to the other side of the table. Bannister then got up from his kneeling position to sit in the chair that she previously occupied. The whole time, Flemmer said, she was begging Bannister to put the knife away.
Flemmer’s son, upon hearing her mother begging for Bannister to put the knife down, immediately called police. Flemmer said she told Bannister that there was going to be trouble and he had better leave.
Flemmer said Bannister placed the knife on the small computer table next to the front door and told her, “You better lock the door. I’m leaving.”
“I went outside and didn’t see him or that his white van had moved,” said Flemmer.
Flemmer’s son, who was still on the phone, told her to go back inside the house. When she went back inside, the knife was missing from the computer table where Bannister had placed it. (Editor’s note: Flemmer said the knife was found Saturday behind the computer speakers and turned over to Bismarck Police Department.)
When police officers responded, one officer stood by the front door, while two additional officers searched the rest of her trailer home in case Bannister was hiding in another room, Flemmer said. During that time, Kenner and another officer remained outside, looking for Bannister.
One officer asked Flemmer to describe Bannister’s vehicle. Flemmer told him the white van that was parked across the street.
“Just as I said that we heard, boom-boom-boom,” Flemmer said. “It sounded like fireworks. We’ve been having fireworks all week. Didn’t sound like gun shots.”
The officers immediately ran outside in response to the shots fired across the street.
“I looked out my kitchen window and saw an officer crouched down,” Flemmer said. “From what I understood, Officer Kenner walked up to the side window of the van and Bannister shot him.”
Bannister was charged Monday with Class AA felony murder. Bannister, too, was shot during the short gunfight near the intersection of 25th Street and Broadway. As of Tuesday, he was receiving treatment for his injuries in the intensive care unit at St. Alexius Medical Center, where he was under guard by Bismarck police officers.
Since the shootout, Flemmer said she has been bombarded by media and unfriendly individuals who drive through the neighborhood and yell things at her. Although she was the victim of abuse and called for help, the tide seems to be turning against her and her autistic son, she said.
“I don’t think anybody deserved to lose their life,” Flemmer said with her head hung low.
Due to Kenner’s shooting, Flemmer has received an eviction notice and must move out of her home by Aug. 15. She had worked with Bannister restoring floors, and all of her tools and equipment to do her job were in his van when it was confiscated. She has no way to work, has no money and now must find a place to live.
“Condolences to the family of Officer Kenner, the entire police department and even to my landlord,” she said. “I know this is stressful on him to have all of this media attention.”
Kenner was the first Bismarck police officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was the 50th North Dakota law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty since 1771, according to the website, Officer Down Memorial Page.