13 year-old’s accused killer pleads not quilty in court this week
By Lynda L. Jones
Community leaders varying from ministers, students, political leaders, and community activists have vowed to monitor the entire case surrounding the killing of 13 year-old Darius Simmons.
Young Darius was allegedly gunned down by 75 year-old John H. Spooner, after Spooner confronted Darius who was moving a garbage cart from the curb on the morning of May 31, 2012 in front of his southside home and demanded that the boy give back his stuff and the shotguns, according to the criminal complaint. Darius told him that he didn’t have his stuff. Darius’ mother chimed in, telling Spooner he should just go back inside. Then suddenly, as the mother watched, Spooner raised a black handgun and shot Darius in the chest from five feet away. Darius ran around the corner and collapsed on Comstock Ave., about 10 feet from a small play area marked “Children’s Park.” As he ran, Spooner fired a second shot that did not hit the boy.
When police arrived, Spooner was still on the sidewalk, holding the gun. When told to drop the weapon, he placed it on the ground and told police, “Yeah, I shot him.”
Spooner appeared in court earlier this week, charged with first degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon. He is being represented by Franklyn Gimbel, a veteran defense attorney. At the June 11th hearing, Spooner plead not guilty and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He has remained in jail since his arrest, his bail was set at $300,000 and has not been posted.
Following the court presidings, Gimbel stated: “He won’t be judged by rallies and meetings of groups of people”, making reference to the many public eyes that are following this case including the Milwaukee Chapter of The NAACP, MICAH, and The Rainbow Push Coalition just to name a few.
Community leaders will continue to watch this case, as they called on Mayor Barrett prior to Spooner’s first court appearance to look into the handling of the investigation from the onset by the Milwaukee Police Department. Friends and family members of Darius were disturbed at the amount of time the grieving mother was detained in a police car and questioned at the scene. She was allegedly questioned for almost two hours according to reports.
Mayor Barrett agreed to follow up and look into the concerns. On Tuesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn held a press conference where he addressed the concerns. He stated that his officers followed procedure, and performed the necessary duties required to maintain the integrity of the scene. What many are asking law enforcement to be conscious of is the fact that a mother had just witnessed her 13 year-old son being shot and killed in front of her, and sitting her in a car, keeping her away from her slain son’s body is, to say the least, thoughtless.
Patricia Larry, Darius’ mother has not been too vocal since the tragedy of her son. However, classmates of Darius, his teacher, his school principal along with other friends and family members want the community to know that this young boy was a good boy.
Principal of Gaenslen School, Tamara Hines, where Darius was a student, stated, “We valued him, we loved him, he loved us. And for other people not to value these young mens’ lives is very sad”.
His teacher, Toni Clark said that she was in a state of shock when she heard the news on Darius’ killing, and was even more saddened when she heard the circumstances surrounding his death. She had the difficult task of telling his classmates. The students asked her if they could put flowers and notes on his desk, she granted their request, noting that she knows that it is a way that children sometimes deal with their grief. She also stated that Darius was a great addition to her classroom, he was vibrant and outgoing and just a really good kid.
Classmates also made a banner outside of the school’s cafeteria filled with notes to Darius and his family. The school raised $1300 for the family as well.
Jose Perez, the newly elected alderman for the district where Darius and his family lived also reached out prior to the funeral and informed the community of a fund that was set up for the family to handle the funeral arrangements that were held on Saturday, June 9 at All Peoples Church, a multiracial Lutheran congregation at 2600 N. 2nd St. Darius’ final resting place is between two tall maple trees in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.
A website was launched following the funeral and burial of Darius earlier this week. The site, www.dariussimmons.org, will keep track of not only the developments of the case, but it will also serve as a memorial to Darius and his family. Supporters are helping to move Darius’ mother and siblings out of the house and neighborhood where he was killed and want people to remember that a child’s life was taken for no reason.