Man accused of killing Darius Simmons pleads not guilty

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MILWAUKEE -- A 75-year-old Milwaukee man accused of shooting and killing 13-year-old Darius Simmons waived his preliminary hearing Monday morning, June 11th, and will stand trial.  John Spooner pleaded not guilty to the first-degree intentional homicide charge.

Spooner is accused of confronting the teen as Simmons 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 on May 31st.  Investigators say the 75-year-old man admitted to shooting the boy.  Spooner was arrested immediately.

During Spooner's preliminary hearing Monday, the victim's family and friends appeared in court.  Members of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the NAACP were there in support. 

"We saw a defendant who came to court laughing and giggling and motioning for coffee, showing no remorse.  It's very clear that this kind of cold-blooded murder of an innocent child, who is responsible for doing nothing but emptying the garbage -- part of his killing was his race. He's an African-American male loved by his teachers, loved by his classmates and above all, loved by his mother,"  Bishop Tavis Grant from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said.

Spooner's attorney said his client does not comprehend what the crime is against him and insists that he is not guilty.

"In this particular case, first degree intentional homicide requires some very specific ingredients for there to be a conviction.  They're not in this case as far as I'm concerned.  Mr. Spooner is presumed innocent by law and he should not, and I believe will not be judged by rallies and meetings of different groups of people. While they all may be well intentioned, Mr. Spooner has the same rights of  due process under the state and federal constitution as any other person accused of a crime, and we're going to vigorously defend him in the case," said defense attorney, Frank Gimbel.

The first degree murder charge carries a possible sentence of life in prison.  Spooner is due back in court June 20th.

Meanwhile, 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.

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