Posts tagged “John Spooner Darius Simmons

When Advocates Want it Both Ways

Yesterday, members of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and Operation Rainbow PUSH—the outfit operated by Jesse Jackson—continued to criticize the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) for its investigation of the shooting death of 13-year-old Darius Simmons on the city’s near south side.  

Seventy-five-year-old John H. Spooner is charged with the slaying.  Similar to the fed-up, out-of-control character portrayed by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down, prosecutors allege that Spooner shot-and-killed Simmons because the elderly man believed that the teenager had burglarized his home.

The critics of the MPD’s investigation, however, are not complaining about the thorough investigation that expeditiously resulted in serious criminal charges.  Instead, these armchair cops are taking the MPD to task for questioning Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry, for nearly two hours inside of a detective’s squad car.

Unfortunately, police departments around the nation are often second guessed after investigators have painstakingly pieced together the pieces of the puzzle.  In hindsight, what looks relatively straight forward after the fact might appear rather convoluted in the minutes and hours immediately following a critical incident.

“I’ve been to parking troubles that turned-out to be shootings, and shootings that turned-out to be parking troubles,” a veteran officer told me during one of my first days on the street.  “The information given to you by the dispatcher is only as reliable as the caller. Keep an open mind and let the facts, not someone’s opinion, lead the way.”

And, more often than not, shooting scenes are somewhat chaotic, especially when the victim’s family is on the scene and emotions are, understandingly, running high.

Answering the who, what, why, when, where, and how, questions takes time, as information from witnesses, as well as the relationship between the suspect and victim, needs verification. 

Moreover, the grilling Ms. Larry received, I would argue, is fairly typical. 

When a Milwaukee police officer uses deadly force, the officer and his or her partner, as well as other law enforcement witnesses, are immediately separated.  Some of these officers are shuffled into the same interrogation rooms used to question suspects of gang related shootings, armed robberies, and homicides.  In the past, some officers where ‘dissuaded’ from calling their spouses to simply let them know that they were still in one piece.

Criminal Investigation 101 calls upon detectives to preserve the integrity of an investigation by separating and then interviewing witnesses, victims, and suspects, before those involved have a chance to compare notes.

In the aftermath of Jeffrey Dahmer, the community and various special interest groups demanded that the MPD conduct thorough criminal investigations.  Now, however, members of these same special interest groups are complaining that the MPD’s investigators are ‘too thorough.’  

For these armchair cops, you can’t have it both ways. 

The bottom line is the bottom line. A crime was committed, a suspected was located and arrested; the District Attorney’s office charged the alleged perpetrator—and all of these activities were conducted within the bounds of the law and the Constitution.  


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volume I, is now available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit:  or

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012