Posts Tagged ‘glory kids’

Slain SWAT officer was hero to children

Sunday, February 24, 2008 @ 11:02 PM Author:
Slain SWAT officer was hero to children Vans of the Glory Kids Ministries make the rounds without the group’s founder, SWAT officer Randal Simmons, killed in a standoff. By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer February 10, 2008 To many children who have so little, Officer Randy meant so much. He brought them bicycles at Christmas. He took them to Dodgers games and McDonald’s. He got them new shoes for school. He invited them to day camp for a swim and slipped their parents money for groceries. Nearly every weekend he visited lower income neighborhoods from Carson to Watts to South-Central, as part of a church group he founded — Glory Kids Ministries — to steer youngsters from gangs and toward the gospels. He helped a mom weather her battle with cancer, and his influence on children often rubbed off on the unruly adults in their lives. And now he was gone. For the first time, the Glory Kids vans made their Saturday pilgrimages without Los Angeles Police Officer Randal Simmons, 51, who was shot to death Thursday during a SWAT raid in the San Fernando Valley. The Glory Kids volunteers tried to explain to the likes of Machealle Corswell, 12, how it could be that Simmons would no longer dress up as Santa for their holiday celebration, or shoot baskets with them on the playground, or treat them to the USC-UCLA football game. “He was like an uncle to me,” said Machealle, who could not stop crying. She was among three dozen children the Glory Kids crew met with at Scottsdale Townhouses in Carson. “When I heard about it on the news, I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” Machealle said, echoing the anger and confusion expressed by other children who had been in Simmons’ orbit. “It’s not fair,” said Tommy Newsome, 12, who stared watery-eyed across the Scottsdale basketball court. “I called him my hero. He was going to take us to the skate park next week.” The Glory Kids team Saturday set up loudspeakers at Scottsdale, played a quick round of Jesus-themed “Simon Says” with the children, gave them balloons and said it was OK to cry. More than anything, they stressed that Simmons would not want them to lose faith. “Where’s Randy right now?” asked Greg Parra, a church minister. “In heaven!” the children shouted in unison. They cheered as they released the balloons into the sky, as a way of letting go of their sorrow. But still they struggled. Eleven-year-old Julian Johnson said he was “mad” about Simmons’ killing. “He always came here to tell us about God,” said Julian, who was straddling his bike. “That’s how all the kids here know about God.” Barbara Sabo, 18, burst into tears when her sister told her about Simmons’ death, and has since been trying to comfort the younger ones at Scottsdale. “They’re asking questions like, ‘Why did he have to go?’ ” she said. “They know it’s not going to be the same.” Simmons, who had two teenagers with his wife, Lisa, could have stepped out of an LAPD recruitment poster. He played football for Washington State University, remained powerfully built into his 50s, and passed up promotion opportunities to serve as the “rock” of SWAT, the elite corps of first-through-the-door risk-takers. But it took his death for many to realize how well he filled out the picture of a role model, and how deeply his presence was felt in neighborhoods that knew him off-duty. Worshipers at Glory Christian Fellowship International in Carson said Simmons routinely devoted at least part of three days each week to the church, mainly for children but also for their parents. He started Glory Kids 11 years ago, donating his own money and raising more from church members and corporate benefactors to pay for the two vans, food, clothes and toys. It now serves about 1,000 children a month, said church spokeswoman Melissa Franklin. “We’ve gotten calls from all these communities, and they’re really hurting now,” Franklin said, referring to Simmons’ death. She was in the church parking lot, preparing for stops at Scottsdale and Hacienda Village in Watts. Simmons rarely spoke about his job, Franklin said: “The only thing he’d comment on was the pain that was out there on the streets.” At Scottsdale, which has had its share of such pain over the years, Simmons’ sway with children, their older siblings — and, by extension, their parents — was a salve, said Cyd Balque, who heads an association of the community of 600 town houses. “He made a connection with the children,” she said. “I grew up here, and I never saw the kids so excited. They’d say, ‘Is Randy coming?’ That had an effect on their parents. It created an atmosphere of peace.” Simmons was killed when he burst into a San Fernando Valley house where a 20-year-old man holed up after telling police dispatchers that he had shot his father and two of his brothers. Another SWAT officer, James Veenstra, was wounded, and a police sharpshooter later killed the gunman, Edwin Rivera. The bodies of the father and brothers were found in the Winnetka-area house. “When my grandma called me and said he died, I said, ‘That’s not true,’ ” related LaTierra Barnes, 13, who joined the Glory Kids gathering at Hacienda Village. “Then I saw it on the news, and I started crying.” She and two young friends the bike raffles Simmons held in the courtyard, and the outings to Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum. “He treated us like we were his own kids,” said LaTierra. Standing by the Glory Kids van was Mimi Fennell, 49, who said Simmons was there for her children when a bout with cancer left her broke. “The cancer was so bad, they said I could go any day, but he said, ‘No way, babe, you’re not going anywhere,’ ” Fennell recalled. “He told me not to be afraid of death. When you were with him, you felt alive. . . . “Now he’s at peace, but he’s leaving his love here.” paul.pringle@latimes.com

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Slain officer was ‘truly a hero in every sense of the word’

Sunday, February 24, 2008 @ 11:02 PM Author:
Slain officer was ‘truly a hero in every sense of the word’ February 16, 2008 Funeral services were held Friday for Officer Randal Simmons, 51, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT team, who was fatally shot Feb. 7 during a standoff at a Winnetka house, where a gunman killed three family members. A police sniper killed the gunman. The Times’ Homicide Report blog and message boards have received more than 600 comments from readers expressing their feelings about Simmons’ death. Here is a sampling: “Randy Simmons was a classmate of mine at [Washington State University]. He was a football hero there, and he is truly a hero in every sense of the word. This city is a tough one to reach, but I can sense through all of the articles and messages posted on L.A. media websites that Randy has truly touched this community. I only saw Randy in person on one occasion since we both graduated from WSU in 1978, and that was New Year’s Eve before the WSU-Michigan Rose Bowl game on 1-1-98. It is one of the moments I most cherish from our Rose Bowl experience that year. My thoughts and prayers will always be with his family. Thank you, Randy, for your service to all of us and may God bless you always.” — Don “I know the Simmons family, and my heart breaks for their loss. The senselessness of killing that runs rampant throughout our cities needs to stop. This man knew every day that he put his life on the line to create a safer place for all of us. His job was to help us, as communities, be safe.” — Mitchie “My prayers go out to the family. Find comfort in knowing that he knew the Lord, and had his business in order. Remember his dedication to the Lord, law enforcement and his family. [It’s] a shame that we live in a world where law enforcement is not respected, and at the end of the day those that responded to protect and serve get shot down. God bless you. Psalms 121: ‘Look to the hills from whence comes your help’!” — Tracy “I have the honor of saying Randy Simmons was my teammate at Fairfax High. I’ve spoken to some players and we are not at all surprised that it was Randy who decided to step through that door Thursday morning to help someone in need. Randy is a hero, not a statistic.” — BPY “Randy visited us on two occasions to train our [St. Louis] SWAT team in the 1990s. He was one of the nicest men I had the pleasure of meeting. A true, gentle giant. On behalf of all of the men and women you befriended in St. Louis, our sympathies are with his family.” — Bob “I am one of the many young people whose life was strongly impacted by Randy. I am also a longtime member of Glory Christian Fellowship, and this is a very hard loss for me to deal with. When I was a part of the teen ministry, Randy was always there and always around. He was a beautiful person and was like one of my uncles.” — D’Andra “Thank you for protecting us.” More information: latimes.com/homicidereport or latimes.com/california.

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South Pasadena’s police chief pays tribute to Los Angeles’ fallen SWAT officer.

By Dan Watson February 11, 2008

I retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after more than 28 years to become the Chief of Police in South Pasadena, where I’ve served for six years. Along with the rest of the law enforcement community, I grieve for the loss of LAPD SWAT Officer Randy Simmons.

Like most LAPD officers, I never worked SWAT. No doubt I didn’t have what it takes – very few do. But I had the opportunity on many occasions to observe them in action. In the ranks of the LAPD, SWAT is iconic. Under routine circumstances, SWAT cops can be aloof. The best in any profession usually are. They work out on duty when others can’t. They train continuously when others can’t. This can breed envy. And yet all LAPD officers admire SWAT officers for being the best. They’re the best because of their training and discipline. And, when you need them, there’s no one in the world who’s better at what they do. I’ve been the incident commander at barricaded suspect scenes when we needed them. The scene is chaotic. Highly motivated, but not highly trained, patrol officers have secured a perimeter with an armed suspect holed up inside a building. You pray that SWAT gets there and takes over before your officers have to engage the suspect. SWAT arrives and they set up. They are the professionals you need – and when the last patrol officer on the inner perimeter is relieved by a SWAT officer, you can sit back and relax a bit. The show is about to begin. The SWAT officers are methodical, professional, unemotional and totally committed to their mission. The SWAT leader comes to you with a plan that you have to approve as incident commander. It makes sense, contingencies have been addressed – in a word, it’s brilliant. You give the green light to implement the plan, and the operation is about to begin. Watching a SWAT team in action is pure artistry in the midst of chaos. And they almost always get their man (or woman) without injury to anyone. In today’s world, where overpaid athletes and rock stars who donate large sums to charity are considered heroes, we are missing the true meaning of what a hero really is. These guys who knowingly risk their lives to save someone intent on killing himself or others are the definition of heroes. I barely knew Randy Simmons and Jim Veenstra, but they are my heroes. All SWAT officers are heroes. Appreciate them. Thank them. Love them for who they are and what they do. Dan Watson is chief of police for the South Pasadena Police Department.

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