Authorities in Hayward, California are investigating the shooting death of Donny Gene Simmons Jr, a father of two who was shot dead Wednesday night by Hayward Police in front of his wife and two young daughters, marking the second fatal police-involved shooting by the Hayward Police Department this year.
Police say that they were responding to a 911 call from Simmons’ daughter concerning a domestic dispute. When they arrived, Police claim Simmons lunged at officers with a knife, forcing them to open fire.
But 34-year-old LaDonna Simmons, Donny Simmons’ high school sweetheart and wife of 13 years, contradicted the police version of events, telling the Bay Area News Group that the officers barged in her home unannounced and shot her unarmed husband once in the abdomen, followed by another six shots as he laid on the ground in the fetal position.
[LaDonna] said she and her husband were arguing about a set of car keys as she was trying to keep him from leaving the apartment while intoxicated. She said her 11-year-old daughter called police during the dispute. LaDonna Simmons said that when officers arrived to the apartment complex in the 2100 block of West Tennyson Road, they ripped the screen door off its hinges and kicked in the front door, she said, opening fire on her husband within seconds of being inside.
“They didn’t even say ‘What’s going on here?’ or ‘Get down on the ground!'” LaDonna Simmons said. “They pointed a gun at me and my daughters and told us to get back.”
The next morning, Hayward police Lt. Mark Stuart told reporters an entirely different story.
According to Stuart, Simmons’ daughter warned 911 dispatchers that her dad was threatening to kill her mom with a knife, presumably the same knife Donny lunged at officers with. He added that dispatchers heard yelling and screaming over the phone, as did police when they arrived. Upon entering Simmons’ apartment, police “were immediately met by a male subject who was armed with a knife,” which he pointed at police as he moved toward them. “One of the officers at that point, fearing for his life, fired at least one shot,” Stuart said.
Simmons’ family disputes these claims as well, saying his daughter made no mention of a knife to 911 dispatchers. Furthermore, they maintain that the only knife in the room was in the kitchen by the cutting board, where Donny had been cooking dinner just moments before police arrived. “They said it sat untouched on the cutting board next to a bloody steak as officers wheeled the man out of the house,” the News Group reported.
Simmons was later pronounced dead at the hospital. But that didn’t stop police from allegedly harassing his wife:
LaDonna Simmons said that at 2:55 a.m., about four hours after she and her girls arrived at the police station, officers served a search warrant on her home and confiscated many of their belongings, including her and her daughter’s cellphones. While Stuart did not mention the search warrant, he said officers remained on scene early Thursday morning to investigate the incident.
Sadly, the trauma from that evening for Donny Simmons’ daughters is far from over. Jack Simmons, Donny’s 26-year-old brother, told the News Group, “My niece told me she screamed ‘No!’ and watched as two officers fired shots at her Dad. I just can’t even begin to grieve for my brother right now because I am so devastated for these girls.” He continued, “They didn’t give my brother a chance. Now my nieces have to grow up without a dad. His family doesn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve this.”
Even more devastating is that Donny’s life seems to have been entering and better chapter in his life:
Donny Simmons had just been given a promotion Wednesday, from working production at the Blommer Chocolate Company in Union City to becoming a full-time warehouse man in shipping and receiving, his family said. He was ecstatic about the new phase of his life, they said. The stability that would come with full-time status, including a raise and benefits, had him thrilled about what would come next for his family.
“He had turned his life around so much. He was trying to show his new purpose in life,” said stepmother Leslie Ricks, who said she watched Donny and LaDonna Simmons fall in love from the time they were 13 years old. “He cared for his wife so much. He always said, ‘Mom, I love her.’ He was so proud of what he got.”
Whatever exactly went down Wednesday night, there’s one thing that’s certain: two children watched their father get torn apart by police bullets in their own home. Knife or no knife, that kind of force is unacceptable.
Correction: The title of this post initially labeled Donny Simmons as “black”. That was incorrect and unintentional. I frequently cover police brutality and sadly I’ve come to associate the victims with black men (because they usually are) so much so that it’s apparently become second nature to label them as such without even noticing. My apologies and thank you to the commenter, michelle, for correcting me.