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John Spooner ruled competent to stand trial on homicide charge

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Milwaukee County Judge found 76-year-old John Spooner competent to stand trial during his court appearance Monday morning, February 4th.

Spooner is charged with first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly shooting and killing Darius Simmons, over allegedly stolen guns on May 31st.

Spooner is accused of confronting Simmons as he was taking out the trash. Spooner reported his home was burglarized and items were taken, including some shotguns.  Officials say Spooner reportedly believed “his next-door neighbor” was to blame.

According to court documents, when Simmons’ mother told Spooner her son didn’t burglarize his home, she says the man pulled out a gun and shot her son from just a few feet away.  Investigators say Spooner admitted to shooting the boy.  Spooner was arrested immediately and remains behind bars.

Spooner’s attorney said his client does not comprehend what the crime is against him and insists that he is not guilty.  He entered an insanity plea in December on his client’s behalf.

"The jury will have to make a decision about what the state of Mr. Spooner's mind was at the date when this offense allegedly occurred. He became paranoid in the sense that he genuinely believed the people who lived next to him in the neighboring house were genuinely stealing things from him, including guns that he had," Frank Gimbel said.

Friends of Simmons' family made a broader point about guns in the hands of the mentally ill.

"Well before his depression, well before his paranoia, those guns should have been out of his hands and this is the argument in America. At what point do we as individuals send a signal that my parent or my neighbor is paranoid and is about to eliminate somebody off the planet. Because we don't evaluate people on the front side. We make excuses for them -- he's paranoid, he's depressed," Keith Bailey said.

Spooner could face life in prison if convicted.

The jury trial is set to begin on Monday, May 6, 2013.

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