MILWAUKEE -- Classmates of 13-year-old Darius Simmons, the teen who was gunned down as he was taking out the trash on May 31st are grieving, as Simmons' 75-year-old neighbor pleaded not guilty to first degree intentional homicide Monday, June 11th.
Emotions run deep at Gaenslen School in Milwaukee. Flowers and a teddy bear cover Simmons' desk.
Simmons was not in school the day of the shooting. His mother says he was suffering a sore throat.
"They came in and they were like 'Ms. Clark, do you mind if we put stuff on Darius' desk?' I said 'that's not a problem.' I know that's sometimes a way kids deal with their grief," Simmons' teacher, Toni Clark said.
Clark says she was devastated when she found out about the shooting.
"I cried. I couldn't believe it. A kid who was vibrant, outgoing, was just a really good kid, and that someone would take his life. When I found out the circumstances of his life being taken, that made it even worse. We valued him. We loved him and he loved us. For other people not to value these young mens' lives, is very sad," Clark said.
Clark says telling the students of Simmons' death was very difficult. One student wrote a heartfelt message on the chalkboard, saying "even though he's gone, his memories still remain in our hearts. His smile and his love will never fade."
In the cafeteria, students signed a banner for Simmons.
"We've been dealing with in Milwaukee many African-American males being killed on the streets and it's impacting Milwaukee Public Schools and now, it has hit here at Gaenslen. It's devastating that a kid that who is respectful and loving and caring -- his life was not valued," Gaenslen Principal, Tamara Hines said.
The school raised $1,300 to help Simmons' family with funeral costs.
Spooner waived his preliminary hearing Monday morning and will now face trial. Spooner pleaded not guilty to the first-degree intentional homicide charge that could result in life in prison.
Police say Spooner admitted to shooting and killing Simmons on May 31st from just a few feet away.
Spooner is accused of confronting the teen as Simmons was taking out the trash. Officials have said Spooner's home was burglarized and items were taken, including some shotguns. Spooner reportedly believed "his next-door neighbor" was to blame.
According to court documents, when Simmons' mother told Spooner they didn't have his stuff and weren't responsible for burglarizing his home, she says the man pulled out a gun and shot her son. Investigators say the 75-year-old man admitted to shooting the boy, and was arrested immediately.
Simmons' mother claims she was mistreated by Milwaukee police during the initial investigation. She says she was detained in the back of a squad car for several hours.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn discussed those allegations Monday, June 11th.
"We`re obviously going to look at the timeline of that investigation. As a general principle, when somebody`s murdered, our first duty is to bring justice to the victim and that requires us to slow a scene down and get the best, most accurate, immediate account from eyewitnesses. I`ll certainly look and see how we conducted ourselves at this time," Chief Flynn said.