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It didn’t take long for our phone lines to be flooded with calls or the doors to be swung open with community members in mourning, all wanting to share what Officer Randal D. Simmons meant to them and to the City of Los Angeles at large.
Just as the news quickly spread that Officer Simmons of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite SWAT team was killed in the line of duty on the morning of February 7, so did the news that the city had lost an incredibly dedicated peacemaker and devoted role model of the African American community.
Person after person shared what a tremendous spirit this man had as not only an officer of the law but also as a concerned community leader. He rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department since his entrance more than 25 years ago, all the while spreading his ministry as a Christian to the youth of some of the most heavily, gang-plagued areas of South Los Angeles.
Captain James Craig, commanding officer of the Southwest Area who had been by Simmons’ side since the beginning of their careers as LAPD officers, shared in detail just who Simmons, the officer and man, was.
“Randy had a strong passion for not just being a police officer, but being a peace officer, someone who really loved the community and wanted to make a difference in the community,” explained Craig, who developed a close friendship with Simmons when they entered the academy together and continued through their assignments on the force. “He was a devout Christian, someone who loved God and did a lot of work in the community. He felt his calling was to work with young people.”
Simmons was quite effective when it came to dealing with the youth, both on and off duty. His years spent in South Bureau’s gang squad, known as CRASH, resulted in a building of relationships with the youth of the community trying to intervene and make them aware of the alternatives to life on the street. And, during his off-hours he would mentor children in the low-income neighborhoods of Carson, Watts and South Central Los Angeles.
“He was passionate about his work with youth ministry,” said Craig, who on several occasions was able to see first hand Simmons’ interaction with the children. “It was amazing to see the reaction the young people in the community had of Randy. They all knew he was a police officer, they all knew he was a SWAT officer, and the respected him and adored him.
“He built tremendous relationships with these young people. And when you talk about community policing, that’s what it’s all about.”
Craig said Simmons was just as devoted, if not more, to his wife and two teenage children demonstrating the perfect balance between his work and ministry and being a loving husband and father. “Randy was a role model of what an African American father and husband should be,” said Craig, who was Simmons’ best man at his wedding ceremony. “In addition to the work he did in the community and interacting with young people, he was preparing his son for the future. He was also a great role model for his daughter. And, he loved his wife unconditionally. He was a perfect situation where he had that balance.”
Another fellow officer and longtime friend of Simmons who wanted to share how the 51-year-old made an impact on the department and community was LAPD Lieutenant O’Neil Carter. The two met while being assigned at the 77th Street Division, working the South Bureau CRASH. He recalled Simmons’ physical presence as being the recruitment poster for LAPD. “Randy was a physical specimen. He took a lot of pride in his appearance and was just in unbelievable, outstanding shape throughout his entire career,” Carter commented. “But with that, Randy was very humble.
“He was pretty introverted and always in deep thought. But when you saw him interact with these youngsters, and they could be the most hardened gangsters, you’d always see Randy really talking to them and engaging with them. He was an outstanding person.”
Los Angeles Police Department Lieutenant Gregory Allen described just how outstanding Officer Simmons was. In terms of his job on the force, Allen said that Simmons was the best of the best. “The Los Angeles Police Department is the most highly trained police department in the world,” said Allen, “and for an LA police officer to aspire to the Metropolitan Division, a specialized unit, that’s considered the best of the best. Still, within that division there’s SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), the most elite unit within LAPD. And, within the SWAT unit, Randy quickly established himself as a team leader.”
All three officers agree that the loss of Simmons has not completely sunk in, but they also say that there are lessons that can be taken from this tragic situation. Said Carter, “I think the biggest lesson from this is the importance of not taking any day or any minute for granted.
“It’s taught me, with my remaining days on this earth, to not make big things out of little things—argue about things that don’t matter at home or in the workplace. Unfortunately, it’s a big reminder about valuing the real things that really matter in life.”
Craig added, “When you look at our heroes, our true heroes, through history and the impact they had...Randy was a hero.
“I think the message that he would want us to give is be right with God, have a relationship with God because when that time comes, which it will come for all of us, just be ready.”
Services for Randal Simmons will be held this week. A viewing will be on Thursday, February 14, 2008, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Holy Christian Fellowship International Church, 225 W. Torrance Blvd., Torrance. And, funeral arrangements are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, at the Crenshaw Christian faith Dome, 7901 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. The Interment immediately following will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, 5835 W. Slauson Ave, Culver City.