Recalling A Fallen Officer

Thursday, February 5, 2009 @ 11:02 PM Author:

Death of LAPD’s Randal Simmons one year ago left void in his community and home.By Larry Altman, Staff WriterPosted: 02/05/2009 11:06:07 PM PST


Lisa Simmons holds a photo of her husband, Randal, the first LAPD SWAT officer killed in the line of duty. Saturday is the anniversary of the death of the officer, who was known for his community service across the South Bay. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)

Sick with a cold, Lisa Simmons awakened sometime after midnight and saw that her husband was not lying next to her. Figuring he was downstairs, she got up, went to the bathroom, returned to bed and turned on the television.”I had no idea he had left the house,” Lisa Simmons said. A short time later, the phone rang. A Los Angeles police official told her to be ready to be picked up. Something had happened to her husband, Randal Simmons. This surprised his wife.”I said, `He’s here. He’s downstairs,’ ” Simmons recalled during an interview this week at her Rancho Palos Verdes home. “I didn’t hear him leave.” Her 51-year-old husband, a 20-year veteran of the special weapons team, had been shot during a gunbattle with a man who had killed his father and two brothers. Saturday marks the anniversary of his death on Feb. 7, 2008.”I miss him. I miss him very much,” Lisa Simmons said. “Things just aren’t the same.” Simmons’ husband of 17 1/2 years excelled at his job. Although his wife knew something could happen to him every time he went to work, she didn’t worry. He was too prepared. He was too meticulous. He was the leader. So when LAPD officers drove her to a helicopter that had landed in Harbor City to take her to Northridge Hospital Medical Center, she figured her husband was alive, just seriously injured. No one would tell her anything. Death never crossed her mind, but as they flew across the city, she considered how the house could be remodeled to handle paralysis or some similar injury.” I knew that something was wrong,” she said. “I asked one of the police officers, `I just need to know whether I need to call my pastor.’ He said, `Call your pastor.”‘ Simmons died about 12:30 a.m. in a gunbattle with 20-year-old Edwin Rivera, a troubled high school dropout angry over his mother’s death. Rivera called police about three hours earlier, telling a 911 operator he had killed three family members. He taunted, “Come get me.” Simmons was called to respond. He slipped out without telling his wife he was leaving. That was unusual. He usually kissed her goodbye. She believes he might have done so that night, but didn’t want to awaken her because she was sick. Simmons’ SWAT team entered Rivera’s house about 12:30 a.m. A gunbattle erupted. Bullets hit Simmons and fellow Officer James Veenstra. Veenstra survived, but was seriously hurt. Rivera retreated, triggering an 11-hour standoff. When he emerged from the house, a police sniper killed him. Inside, his brothers and father lay shot to death. Lisa Simmons arrived at the hospital too late. Her husband was dead.” I sell a lot of life insurance,” said Lisa Simmons, a Hawthorne insurance agent. “Never did I even think it would actually happen to me. He was to retire in two years.” Simmons was the first SWAT officer to die in the line of duty in LAPD history. Quickly hailed a hero, he became an icon as soon as his life’s interests and concerns for disadvantaged children became known to the world.”He was such a good man,” his 44-year-old wife said. “Everybody misses him.” Even as he raised his own teenage son, Matthew, 16, and daughter, Gabrielle, 14, Simmons spent each weekend ministering to disadvantaged and troubled teens in Carson and Los Angeles.  Along with members of Glory Christian Fellowship International Church of Carson, he drove into housing projects to provide inspiration in the lives of many young people. He also coached football in El Segundo, bringing in teens from other areas of Los Angeles to play.”That was his heart,” his wife said. “There are so many people out there who are in need.” Hundreds of those children rode buses to his funeral, taking seats among more than 10,000 mourners, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton.” I was shocked. Randy was so low-key,” Lisa Simmons said. “For him to have that type of funeral was amazing.” During the past year, well-wishers from all over the world framed dozens of Simmons’ photographs and presented plaques, commendations and other awards to his wife. Some are displayed, but many remain stacked in a room waiting for a space on a wall or shelf.  There are flags flown over Baghdad, dolls and crystal, framed uniforms from his days as a Washington State football player, pictures of him speaking to children. An El Segundo Eagles football uniform signed by his players as they rode the bus to his funeral adorns one wall.A blue angel wearing a police badge particularly touched Lisa Simmons.”When I received it, I could not stop crying,” she said. “He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.” Working to continue her husband’s legacy, Lisa Simmons has established the Randal D. Simmons Outreach Foundation. The foundation’s primary goals are to “empower the community by providing support in the areas of economic development, education, health and wellness and global outreach.” At Christmas, the foundation provided toys to 1,000 children at “The Great Toy Giveaway” at Glory Christian church.The organization has provided a scholarship to the Dorsey High School Law and Police Academy Program, recruited “Glory Kids” to participate in a police academy program, provided Easter baskets and held an Easter egg hunt at the Hacienda Village housing development in Watts, given away clothes and held a swim party for children.” There are so many people out there who are in need,” Lisa Simmons said. In December, the foundation held a fundraiser at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, where a cobblestone bridge was named for Simmons. On Saturday, a Leimert Park restaurant owned by Simmons’ family will designate a portion of the proceeds to the foundation. Lisa Simmons will spend the day in the restaurant, following a family gathering to tell stories and pray at her husband’s grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.” We want to encourage each other with the word of God,” she said. She and her children, meanwhile, are continuing to cope with their loss. They’re “just now starting to find our new normal.” The teens, whom she called her priority, attend Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance. One day, Lisa Simmons said, she will learn why her husband died so young.” I just know there is a reason,” she said. “It will be revealed to me when I get to heaven.” WANT TO GO? What: Fundraiser for the Randal D. Simmons Outreach Foundation. When: Noon to 9 p.m. Saturday Where: New Orleans Vieux Carre restaurant at 4317 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles.

One Response to “Recalling A Fallen Officer”

  1. CMK says:

    The more I read about this outstanding and incredible example of a man truly devoted to others and to a righteous faith, the more saddened I am at our loss – because, truly, all of us here on Earth are missing someone very important.

    Lisa, stay strong. Your husband was one of the finest men to have ever called himself an Officer of the Peace.