13-year old teenager shot dead by neighbour in Milwaukee
Compiled from various sources
submitted by: Fiona Kerr – January 2014
Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
On 31 May 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a 13-year old African-American boy named Darius Simmons was shot to death whilst taking out the trash. At around 10am, Darius’s 76-year-old white neighbour, John Henry Spooner, confronted Darius and accused him of stealing from his home. Darius, who was in school at the time of the theft, had denied any wrongdoing. Spooner, who was known by his neighbours, police, and local elected officials as a gun collector, had claimed that four shotguns were taken at a theft from his house days earlier.
The police had already investigated the burglary, interviewed Darius’ family, and concluded that no one from their household was involved.
Footage from Spooner’s own surveillance cameras shows him confronting Darius on the sidewalk and pointing a handgun at him. Darius back-pedalled a few steps with his hands up. Watching from her front porch, Darius’ mother, Patricia Larry, told Spooner to go back inside. Instead Spooner turns and shoots Darius at close range in front of his mother. See CCTV footage & report >
Though fatally wounded, Darius stumbled and tried to run away as Spooner fired a second shot that missed. He tried to shoot a third time but the gun jammed. Darius collapsed on the pavement and Patricia, who had watched this episode unfold in horror, ran to her child to see if he had a pulse. Darius died in her arms.
The family had only been in the neighbourhood a month. After police arrived, they left Darius’ body on the sidewalk while his mother, Patricia Larry, was immediately questioned in a police car for around two hours.
The police proceeded to search Patricia’s family home to investigate the homicide, and after finding nothing relevant they nevertheless arrested Darius’s older brother on account of some truancy tickets.
In contrast, members of Spooner’s family were reportedly allowed to re-enter their home and remove “items” – despite it being part of the crime scene. Spooner himself was granted bail for $300,000 (meaning that only $30,000 would have to be posted for him to be freed).
Darius’ funeral was held Saturday, June 6th at All Peoples Church where Darius was an active member, especially in their Kids Working to Succeed’ program.
Appearing in court Monday 11th June, Spooner pleaded not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide. Spooner testified at trial against his attorney’s advice and said he killed the teen because he wanted his guns back. He also acknowledged wanting to kill Darius’ older brother when he ran to his sibling’s aid as he lay dying in the street. But Spooner said he didn’t shoot the brother because he didn’t want to hit any of the others who had gathered around.
In July 213, Spooner was sentenced to life in jail. After less than an hour of deliberation a jury found Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional murder. It took less than 30 minutes for them to determine that Simmons was sane and in control of his actions at the time of the shooting. The judge could have allowed for the possibility of parole after 20 years, but rejected that option, citing Spooner’s lack of remorse and desire to also kill the teen’s brother.
When prosecutor Mark Williams suggested Spooner killed Darius as revenge for having his guns stolen, Spooner replied, “I wouldn’t call it revenge. I would call it justice.”
Darius’ mother, Patricia, recalled those words from Spooner as she asked the judge to prevent him from ever being eligible for parole.
“I want him to be accountable for what he did to my son, Darius Simmons. I want him to have life in prison,” she said at Monday’s sentencing. “He showed no remorse and said justice was served. He is a menace to society.”
Whilst in court for his sentencing Spooner said “They had to rob the house, why’d they do that to me? … They pushed me over the edge, I guess. I don’t know. As far as being sorry, I don’t know if I did right or wrong.”
Judge Jeffrey Wagner replied sternly: “I can tell you, you did wrong. You took the life of a child.”
Patricia declined to speak with reporters after the trial but thanked God, the prosecutor and the community. “Justice was served,” she said.
The fatal racism that shot Darius Simmons to death
11 June 2012