|Birth: ||Jul. 22, 1956|
San Bernardino County
|Death: ||Feb. 7, 2008|
Los Angeles County
WINNETKA - An LAPD SWAT team member was shot to death and another was wounded overnight by a gang member with mental health issues who earlier killed three people inside a home and eventually was shot to death by police, authorities said this morning.
Officer Randy Simmons, 51, died about 1 a.m., a few minutes after entering the home in the 19800 block of Welby Way. He was shot in the neck, according to City Councilman Dennis Zine.
Officer James Veenstra, 51, was shot in the face and jaw, Zine said. He is in critical condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, but is expected to survive.
Three other officers suffered minor injuries.
Both Simmons and Veenstra worked on the Special Weapons and Tactics team for 20 years, and had spent more than 25 years in the Los Angeles Police Department, said LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell.
It was the first fatality in the history of the elite LAPD SWAT team, which was created in 1967.
"I want to say how deeply saddened we are this morning that we lost a member of our LAPD family," McDonnell said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to these families at this tough time."
Edwin Rivera, 20, was identified as the shooter by two LAPD sources. He was described by one source as about 6 feet tall and about 300 pounds. He had two weapons, a shotgun and a handgun, LAPD Chief William Bratton said at a noon news conference.
He killed his father, Gerardo Rivera, and two older brothers, Andy and Edgar, relatives said.
McDonnell said SWAT officers entered the residence shortly after 12:30 a.m., triggering an exchange of gunfire in which Simmons and Veenstra were shot.
Deputy Chief Michel Moore said Simmons and Veenstra went inside the house because they thought Rivera was holding more hostages and that people's lives in the home were still in danger.
From 9 p.m. until the officers were shot, police had multiple phone conversations with Rivera and were led to believe there were other people alive inside the house, Moore said.
Officers found two people dead inside the home and one man who was still alive. They dragged him to the front yard, where he died, police said.
An emotional Zine said the officers did a tremendous job.
Even though the SWAT team has been involved in thousands of incidents, this was the first one of its members has been killed in action, McDonnell said.
"If I had a kid and he told me he wanted to be an officer, I would have told him this is someone you should aspire to be like," he said of Simmons, whom he knew for 15 years. "He was the consummate SWAT officer."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had recently honored Simmons with a Crystal Angel Award for "outstanding community service" during the Los Angeles Police Foundation's annual True Blue Awards.
Villaraigosa said he knew both Simmons and Veenstra well because they were assigned to security details for his family. Simmons was specifically assigned to the mayor's daughter.
"He was the most likeable fellow," Hillman said. "He was a gentleman and a good father."
Ralph Smith, a 12-year veteran of the SWAT team, said Simmons and Veenstra trained him and often led training exercises.
"You couldn't ask for a better group of guys," he said.
Simmons was known as "The Deacon" because he was an ordained minister, Smith said, adding, "I have nothing but praise for him." Simmons was a staff minister at Glory Ministry in Carson.
Simmons and Veenstra were longtime partners. Simmons is survived by a wife and two children, and Veenstra's wife is an LAPD Central Division captain.
For the last 12 years, Simmons served as a mentor and peer leader to others on the SWAT team and was the most tenured member of the Crisis Negotiation Team, skilled at dealing with such incidents, Bratton said.
Each year, he coordinated Christmas toy drives at orthopedic hospitals throughout L.A. for patients whose families are financially challenged.
"Today the city of Los Angeles mourns the loss of one of its bravest guardians, and our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Simmons' family and all the members of the LAPD at this time," said Villaraigosa, who ordered the city's flags to be lowered in honor of the officer.
Holy Cross Cemetery
Los Angeles County
Created by: Linda Carole Mustion
Record added: Feb 07, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 24460551