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Thousands honor slain SWAT officer

February 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles police Officer Randal Simmons received a hero's send-off Friday.His funeral is one of the largest ever for an LAPD officer.

Bagpipes wailed as pallbearers in dress blues and white gloves carried the casket of Officer Randal Simmons into a packed church for the funeral of the city's first SWAT team member killed in the line of duty.

A hundred somber police officers snapped to attention and saluted as the flag-draped coffin was pulled from a white hearse and carried into the 10,000-seat Crenshaw Christian Center Faithdome.

Many wore special badges with Simmons' picture. A number of children wore white T-shirts with his picture and the words, "Our Hero."

Before the service began, former Police Chief Bernard Parks remembered Simmons, saying "even though he did a lot of dangerous work, he was probably one of the most peaceful souls you'll find."

Fifty-one-year-old Randy Simmons was a deeply religious man. He was known in the community as Minister Randy or The Reverend and served as a mentor to many children.

To his fellow LAPD officers he was known as a selfless leader on the SWAT team.

SWAT officers from around the country were in the Southland to salute Officer Simmons. They attended Simmons' viewing Thursday in Torrance and attended the funeral services Friday.

Simmons had been a SWAT officer for the past 20 years and was the second highest ranking member of the elite group. He is the first LAPD SWAT officer to be killed in the line of duty in the unit's 41-year history.

Simmons' body was escorted by dozens of motorcycle officers in a motorcade that wound through South Los Angeles. The eight pallbearers were all current or former members of the SWAT team.

"He was a super-solid guy. He touched a lot of people on duty and off-duty," said Officer Tim McCarthy, a six-year veteran of the unit who was trained by Simmons.

Simmons was also a family man. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage children.

Last Thursday the SWAT team entered the home of 20-year-old Edwin Rivera who had called police to report that he'd killed his father and two brothers.

Simmons took a bullet that ended his life, but it saved the life of Officer James Veenstra. Veenstra was shot in the jaw and is recovering following surgery. He was able to attend Friday's funeral.

"The fact that he's able to be here in itself is significant for him," said Sgt. Lee Sands, LAPD. "He is grateful to the fact that he is able to come and partake in these services, to send his comrade, his friend, and his brother officer off in a way that he should be sent off."

Among the speakers at the service are former partners of Randy Simmons and Simmons' teenage son Matthew.

Police Chief William Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa both spoke at the beginning of the service.

Bratton told the SWAT officers, who were with Simmons when he was shot in the standoff, that Simmons "understood and appreciated your desperate efforts to save him." As a police officer, Simmons, had feared no evil because he know God was with him, Bratton said. "He has truly gone home," the chief told mourners.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Simmons was known for going beyond the call of duty.

"They called him a deacon for a reason," the mayor said. "He mentored at-risk kids, he led Sunday school on the sidewalks, he drove toys for kids at Christmas time."

Thousands of LAPD officers, as well as officers other departments in the state and from around the country also attended the service to pay their respects.

Several streets will be closed because of Officer Simmons' funeral.

  • Vermont Avenue between Manchester and Florence is closed through 3 p.m.
  • Slauson Avenue between Vermont and Buckler is closed through 3 p.m.
Several Metro bus lines in the area will be detoured or delayed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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