HAYWARD -- The family of a Hayward man shot to death by police Wednesday night say the 37-year-old father of two was unarmed when officers kicked in his door and fired several shots into his torso as his wife and daughters looked on.

Police said the man, identified by family as Donny Gene Simmons Jr., was fatally shot just before 9:30 p.m. after he lunged with a knife at an officer responding to his daughter's call about a domestic dispute. His wife, 34-year-old LaDonna Simmons, said officers responding to the child's call ambushed the home unannounced, 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.

Donny Gene Simmons Jr., a Hayward father of two was fatally shot by police who said the 37-year-old lunged toward an officer with a knife. Family members
Donny Gene Simmons Jr., a Hayward father of two was fatally shot by police who said the 37-year-old lunged toward an officer with a knife. Family members say he was unarmed. (Photo courtesy of Simmons family)

In an interview Thursday afternoon, LaDonna Simmons, Donny Simmons' high school sweetheart and wife of 13 years, said 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. LaDonna Simmons said that when officers arrived to the apartment complex in the 2100 block of West Tennyson Road, they ripped the screen door off its hinges and kicked in the front door, she said, 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."

Hayward police Lt. Mark Stuart said Thursday morning that Simmons lunged at responding officers with a knife in hand and that they arrived at the home after the girl told the dispatcher that her father was threatening her mother with a knife.

"One of the officers at that point, fearing for his life, fired at least one shot," Stuart said.

Family members said 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.

The man was taken to Eden Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at the scene.

"My niece told me she screamed 'No!' and watched as two officers fired shots at her Dad," said Jack Simmons, 26, Donny Simmons' brother. "I just can't even begin to grieve for my brother right now because I am so devastated for these girls."

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

LaDonna Simmons said that at 2:55 a.m., about four hours after she and her girls arrived at the police station, officers served a search warrant on her home and confiscated many of their belongings, including her and her daughter's cellphones. While Stuart did not mention the search warrant, he said officers remained on scene early Thursday morning to investigate the incident.

Detectives investigating the incident were not available for comment Thursday evening, and information about the officers involved in the fatal shooting was not immediately released.

Donny Simmons had just been given a promotion Wednesday, from working production 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. The stability that would come with full-time status, including a raise and benefits, had him thrilled about what would come next for his family.

"He had turned his life around so much. He was trying to show his new purpose in life," said stepmother Leslie Ricks, who said she watched Donny and LaDonna Simmons fall in love from the time they were 13 years old. "He cared for his wife so much. He always said, 'Mom, I love her.' He was so proud of what he got."

LaDonna Simmons said authorities had never had to come to the house before, and that their fights had never before escalated to the point where police would be necessary. And as she struggled to remain strong for her daughters as they mourned the loss of their father, evidence of the prior evening's events remained scattered around the tiny apartment -- her husband's blood on the carpet, a giant footprint on the door.

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

Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Contact Rick Hurd at rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com.