A 75-year-old Milwaukee man pleaded not guilty Monday in the fatal shooting of his 13-year-old neighbor. John Henry Spooner is facing first-degree intentional homicide charges for killing his 13-year-old neighbor Darius Simmons while he was retrieving a trash can from the street.
Spooner admitted to police that he shot Simmons on Thursday morning, even as the teen was running away from him with his hands up.
Earlier in the week Spooner reported a break-in at his home and blamed the family next door, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports.
However, Simmons’ aunt told the Journal the teen was in school Tuesday when Spooner’s house was broken into. She went on to say police searched Simmons’ house after he was shot and did not find any of Spooner’s guns.
According to reports Simmons and his mother moved in to the south side neighborhood on May 1 from the north side because she was looking for a safer neighborhood.
“His mom saw the whole thing,” Betty McCuiston, Simmons’ aunt said at a news conference in front of an estimated fifty community members.
“She wants everyone to know that he [Simmons] had his hands up, standing in front of him [Spooner] when he shot him and then he turned to run and he shot him again in the back.”
Spooner said little during Monday’s 2-minute hearing where he pleaded not guilty, the Associated Press reports.
Spooner’s attorney, Frank Gimbel, said his client had not been in a position to confess to any charges.
“When a lay person says they are guilty of a crime they really are not speaking with an understanding of what the particulars of the crimes that are charged are and, in this case, first-degree intentional homicide requires some very specific ingredients to be a conviction,” Gimbel told the AP. “They are not in this case, as far as I’m concerned.”
Tavis Grant, national field director for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, told reporters at the courthouse Simmons’ family was planning to pursue federal hate crimes charges against Spooner. Darius was black and Spooner is white.
“His color, his race, his ethnicity is enough,” Grant said, adding that Spooner’s behavior in court was inappropriate.
“You would think that someone (who is) 75 years old, who has lost a wife, has gone through cancer, would show some remorse, show some regret, show some disappointment, show some sign for the loss of this mother,” Grant went on to tell the AP.