At approximately 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 6, LAPD received a call from a man stating he had killed three members of his family. Responding officers came upon the suspect barricaded inside a home in the 19800 block of Welby Way in the San Fernando Valley.
The SWAT team was subsequently called in and while one group of SWAT officers fired their guns along the side of the house to create a diversion, another team entered through the front door, tossing in a flash-bang grenade. Once in the door, the officers discovered a low wall that may have blocked their view – and may have stopped the grenade from having its full effect on the suspect, authorities said.
As the officers made their way along the wall, officials said, the suspect popped up and shot Officer James Veenstra (51) from about 10 to 15 feet away, hitting him in the face. The other officers returned fire, but the suspect shot Officer Randal Simmons in the neck. Both officers were wearing helmets and bulletproof vests.
The remaining officers spotted a victim who appeared to still be alive and managed to pull him and the two wounded officers out of the house and onto the front lawn, where Fire Department paramedics administered medical aid. The civilian victim was already dead, but Simmons and Veenstra were rushed to Northridge Hospital Medical Center. Officer Simmons died just after 1 a.m., officials said.
The suspected shooter, Edwin Rivera, 20, was shot to death by a police sniper as he tried to flee his home – which had caught fire, presumably after tear-gas canisters were launched to force him out – more than 10 hours after the standoff began.
Police said Rivera, who was armed with a handgun and a shotgun, also killed his father, Gerardo Rivera (54) and brothers, Edgar Rivera (21) and Endi Rivera (25).
An unprecedented ten-thousand people filled the Crenshaw Christian Center’s Faith Dome on February 15, 2008 to pay respects and remember Officer Randal Simmons, described as “the rock” of the elite LAPD SWAT team. Simmons was the first SWAT team member in its four-decade history to die in the line of duty. He is survived by his wife Lisa and their two teenage children, Matthew and Gabrielle.
During the funeral, Officer Simmons was remembered as a deeply religious man, devoted husband, caring father, and model officer during the three-hour service. Many state and local officials were in attendance, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa, whose children Simmons had once guarded, acknowledged to mourners that the death had hit the community hard. “It touches a particular nerve way deep in our souls, and it hurts,” Villaraigosa said. “I’ve thought a lot over the last few days about why that is, and I think it has something to do with the fact that the entire city community loses when we lose a police officer.”
Officer Simmons’ Christian faith was a strong central part of his character. He was the minister at Glory Christian Fellowship International Church for 13 years. Known to his congregation as Minister Randy, he was seen as a humble and totally selfless individual that shared the unconditional love of Christ with all people he met, especially children and young adults. His tireless commitment to the youth has been recognized throughout the state with numerous awards he has received.