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LAPD mourns death of fellow SWAT officer

February 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Fellow officers are trying to cope with the loss of SWAT officer Randal Simmons.Meanwhile, officer James Veenstra remains in the intensive care unit at Northridge Medical Center. He is expected to survive.

Fellow SWAT member Simmons has become the first LAPD SWAT team member to be killed in the line of duty since it was created in 1967. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage children, and a police department in mourning.

The questions surrounding the shootout far outweigh the information being released. The usually tranquil community of Winnetka was transformed into a scene of dreadful carnage.

Of the five people killed, one was LAPD SWAT officer Randal Simmons. His partner officer James Veenstra was critically wounded.

"The caliber of these officers is incredible," said LAPD Chief William Bratton. "They represent the best of the best."

Simmons, a 27-year veteran of the SWAT team, was shot in the neck and that bullet lodged in his brainstem. He died just after 1 a.m. Thursday.

He was a 51-year-old husband and father of two. He was well-know throughout the police department as a gentle giant of a man and well respected in his community.

"Oh, I don't know what to tell you, he was so great," said Mary Haupt, Simmons' neighbor. "He was a runner, all the time running around the block. And hi to everybody. He was great, so was his wife and kids. So was his wife and kids. It's terrible."

"Randy, thank you for all that you've done," said Barbara Ivory, Simmons' friend. "Thank you for the lives, the hearts that you've touched, especially the children. And we'll see you again, definitely."

Veenstra was shot in the face and critically injured. He underwent a three-hour surgery Thursday and will have to go through a number of other surgeries. He has been communicating with his family and friends by writing and using body language. Veenstra's wife is a captain on the force.

Former police chief Daryl Gates, who started the LAPD SWAT team more than 40 years ago, recruited both Simmons and Veenstra.

"Not only great physical specimens, not only great technicians, not only great police officers but their smart, very, very smart and so dedicated," said Gates.

Veenstra is in stable condition after undergoing surgery to repair his shattered jaw. Doctors say that the bullet lodged in his jawbone potentially saved his life.

In a written statement Veenstra's family says "he's sitting up and doing better."

Trust funds have been established through the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union for Officer Randal Simmons and Officer James Veenstra.

If you'd like to make a donation to the fund click here. When on the site (www.lapfcu.org) just click on the red square titled "LAPFCU Community Corner." You can also make a donation by contacting the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union at (877) 695-2732.

Contributions in their honor may also be made to: The Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation (www.lapmf.org) click here and The Los Angeles Police Foundation ( www.lapolicefoundation.org) click here.

 

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