"He's grabbing a knife. He's saying he's going to kill her ... He's saying 'I'm gonna give you 5, 4, 3, 2, 1' or something. He's like, counting down to like, kill her or something."

In a harrowing eight-minute recording of a 911 call, released by Hayward police Friday, a composed but increasingly worried 11-year-old girl described her father's threats toward her mother, and pleaded for officers to hurry to the family's apartment the night of Aug. 14.

In the wake of the father's death at the hands of police, the family contended that he was unarmed and posed no real threat to them or the arriving officers. But the recording seems to run counter to that contention, though it doesn't make clear exactly what happened before the fatal shots were fired.

Donny Simmons Jr.
Donny Simmons Jr. (Photo courtesy of Simmons family)

On the recording, the girl frequently refers to a knife held by her father, 37-year-old Donny Gene Simmons Jr., as he threatened to kill his wife if she wouldn't hand over his car keys. The girl, who is not being identified by this newspaper, tells the dispatcher at one point that her father had been drinking.

The call began at 9:23 p.m., when the girl told the dispatcher that her father had locked her mother in a room and that the two of them were screaming. The dispatcher asks the girl if her father is hitting her mother; the girl says "I think he's hitting himself or something and he's telling her to hit him or something. He said he was going to kill my mom."


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The girl first mentions the knife about four minutes into the 911 call. "He said, 'I'm gonna hurt you, (expletive),' " she adds.

Asked to describe the knife, the girl notes that it's "one of those long ones ... it's silver." The girl's 12-year-old sister can be heard in the background, begging Simmons to put the knife down.

The family has insisted that Simmons never had a knife, and that the only knife in sight in the apartment was the one the father used to prepare dinner earlier than evening.

The young girl remains calm throughout the call, though she sometimes responds to the dispatcher's specific questions with unrelated observations.

"I don't want you to go out there," the dispatcher tells the girl at one point, after she tells him she's leaving the room to check to see if her father still has the knife. "I don't want you to do anything that's going to hurt you."

At one point, there appears to be confusion among police over the location of the apartment, which is in the 2100 block of West Tennyson Road. The dispatcher tries to get the girl to clarify if she lives in the office building at the apartment complex.

While the family has said that the officers did not announce their arrival at the apartment, the dispatcher can be heard telling the girl that officers would be kicking in the door.

Moments later, a loud bang or bangs are heard, apparently the sound of police entering the apartment and firing on Simmons.

The young girl falls silent for a matter of seconds, though screams can be heard in the background. After several moments, someone yells "They shot him!"

The girl returns to the phone and calmly says "they're here" before thanking the dispatcher and ending the call.

Police have maintained that Simmons lunged at officers as they entered the apartment, though the recording does not offer any verbal indication of that.

Recordings from the officers' microphones were not released Friday. Authorities have reviewed these recordings, says Forkus, who claims that there were no telling remarks made between the time officers entered and when they opened fire.

"There's nothing that comes on the air and says 'He's lunging at me!'" Sgt. Ken Forkus said. "But it was very fast evolving, just boom, boom, boom. It's all in a matter of very few seconds that it all takes place."

The officer "was forced to shoot," Forkus said. "He had no choice. It was a split-second decision to make, and it was done."

Investigators completed interviews Aug. 16 with the officers involved, who have not been identified. An investigations team with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office is also probing the case.

Simmons, a father of two who was married to his high-school sweetheart, La Donna, for 13 years, had just been given a promotion the week before, from working a temp job at the Blommer Chocolate Company in Union City to becoming a full-time warehouse man in shipping and receiving, his family said. He was ecstatic about the new phase of his life, they said, along with the raise and benefits that would come with full-time status.

"They didn't give my brother a chance," Jack Simmons said last week. "Now my nieces have to grow up without a dad. His family doesn't deserve this. He didn't deserve this."

On Friday afternoon, Simmons's sister, Colleen Berini, said she had not yet heard the 911 recording. "Let me listen to the tapes. It's my brother, you know."

Jack Simmons also declined to comment until he had listened to the recording.

Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.