The Shooting Of Darius Simmons


This is horrifying:

Darius Simmons was like a lot of 13-year-old boys -- funny, boisterous and a little braggy...

John Henry Spooner, his 75-year-old next-door neighbor, is charged with first-degree murder in the boy's death. Spooner, a widower who has been diagnosed with cancer, had complained to Alderman Bob Donovan about a break-in at his home earlier in the week, blaming the family next door. 

Spooner admitted to police that he shot Darius on Thursday morning, even as the boy had held up his arms and ran away.
Spooner shot the boy because he believed he'd broken into his house and stolen some guns. (Spooner was a collector.) Simmons' mother says the police searched the house and found nothing. I understand why she wants to say that, but I think even if her son actually was burglar you are still left with 1.) someone taking the law for self and 2.) executing a child over an alleged theft.

There may well be more here. We'll likely know in the coming days. I bet we'll be hearing about Wisconsin's own stand your ground law. For now we have this:

Milwaukee police said they recognized the area around 19th and Arrow streets address when the call came in about a man they said shot his teenage neighbor. Dispatch records obtained by WISN 12 News show the Spooner called 911 at least 15 times in five years, including four stolen guns after a break-in Tuesday. 

 An hour before the shooting, Spooner had been eating breakfast with Alderman Bob Donovan. "(Spooner) was telling me about the recent burglary that he had. They stole $3,000 worth of guns. I know John to have been a member, or is a member, of the National Rifle Association," Donovan said. 

"I asked him, 'Did you call the police?' He said, 'Yeah,' but for whatever reason, seemed a little frustrated with that investigation. I don't know the details of it," Donovan said. 

"Did he suspect the 13-year-old?" Lyles asked. 

"He suspects whoever lives next door to him, that those individuals were involved," Donovan said. 

Donovan said Spooner has lung cancer and seemed troubled, not angry. But after the shooting, he said the conversation stands out. 

"He did say that 'maybe there are other ways of dealing with this,'" Donovan said.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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