HAYWARD -- Two days after the fatal officer-involved shooting of a 37-year-old father of two, Hayward police said the audio recordings of the fateful 911 call will tell the tale of what brought officers to the apartment complex where the man was shot and killed in front of his wife and children.
Police said the man, identified as Donny Gene Simmons Jr., was fatally shot just before 9:30 p.m. after he lunged, while armed with a knife, at an officer responding to his daughter's call about a fight between her parents. His wife, 34-year-old LaDonna Simmons, said officers responding to the child's call ambushed the home in the 2100 block of West Tennyson Road, firing one shot into her unarmed husband's abdomen and unloading at least six more as he curled up on the ground in the fetal position.
Investigators completed interviews with the officers involved, who have not been identified, Friday afternoon at the Hayward Police Department, and the 911 tapes could be released as early as Monday, Sgt. Eric Melendez said. An investigations team with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office is also probing the case, he said.
"There are some very definite issues regarding what the family is saying and what is known as fact," Melendez said Friday. "Everything is on the 911 tapes -- what the call said will tell you everything."
Melendez reiterated police claims that Simmons' 11-year-old daughter said her father was threatening her mother with a knife in her 911 call. He added that the audio from the 911 call supports police claims that the man was holding the kitchen knife when officers arrived.
"He was holding a weapon, I can tell you that right now," Melendez said.
Melendez also said that the confiscation of the family's cellphones with a search warrant early the next morning was "standard procedure," and that such warrants are requested after any officer-involved incident.
"We want to be able to go in and legally seize everything. If we're going to go in and process the scene, we want to make sure it's not going to get tossed out in court," Melendez said. "When you take cellphones, you're looking at everything that was going on on those around the time of the incident."
Family members expressed concern Thursday afternoon that the confiscation of the cellphones was a police attempt to obscure evidence, and Simmons' young daughters lamented that hundreds of photos of their father were on the phones seized by police.
LaDonna Simmons said in an interview with this newspaper Thursday afternoon that she and her husband were arguing about a set of car keys as she was trying to keep him from leaving the apartment while intoxicated. She said her 11-year-old daughter called police during the dispute, and that when officers arrived at the apartment, they ripped the screen door off its hinges and kicked in the front door, opening fire on her husband within seconds of being inside.
"They didn't even say 'What's going on here?' or 'Get down on the ground!'" LaDonna Simmons said. "They pointed a gun at me and my daughters and told us to get back."
Family members said Thursday the young girl said nothing about a knife and that the only knife police could have seen was the one lying on the cutting board where Donny Simmons had been preparing dinner minutes earlier. They said it sat untouched on the cutting board next to a bloody steak as officers wheeled the man out of the house.
A candlelight vigil in memory of Donny Gene Simmons Jr. will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday in Union City's Old Alvarado Park at 3871 Smith St.
While the man's autopsy was completed Thursday, the coroner's office said the results will not be released until Hayward police complete their investigation.
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