According to prosecutors, 76-year-old John Henry Spooner (pictured left) suspected 13-year-old Darius Simmons (pictured in photograph) of stealing three shotguns from his home. Spooner confronted Simmons as he took out the trash around 10:00 a.m. on May 31, 2012. When Simmons denied involvement and his mother told Spooner to go away, Spooner allegedly produced a handgun and fatally shot the youth.
When police arrived, Spooner told them he had shot Simmons. However, they questioned Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry (pictured right), for two hours and searched her home as Simmons’ body was laying in the street, according to Bishop Tavis Grant, a field director for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Court records show that police previously removed 16 guns from Spooner’s house in December 2006. His reclaim form said the guns were taken because he had harbored a felon as a guest. A judge returned the guns to Spooner in April of 2007. Hours before the shooting, Spooner had met with Alderman Bob Donovan inside George Webb’s restaurant. He told Donovan that robbers had taken $3,000 worth of shotguns from his home two days prior. Spooner also said that he suspected his neighbors were involved and was upset that police hadn’t arrested anyone.
Donovan said that Spooner had been burglarized many times before and even installed surveillance cameras outside his house. During their breakfast together, Spooner may have hinted what was to come. Donovan claims Spooner told him, “there are other ways to deal with situations.”
But when asked if this meant a vigilante response, Donovan said, “I’m not going to speculate,” but that’s what you wonder now.”
Due to the striking similarities between this case and the Trayvon Martin trial, jury selection Monday focused on weeding out jurors who might be influenced by the latter’s outcome. Some jurors admitted they would have a tough time not noting patterns between both cases.
“There was a group that was unhappy about the injustice in the Zimmerman case,” one juror candidate said in court Monday. “They hoped there wouldn’t be another injustice in this case.
The candidate, who was white, was ultimately removed from the jury, saying that “I am angry. I feel like the system is failing. I see black teenagers getting arrested for stuff that white people would get ticketed for.”
Spooner is charged with first-degree intentional homicide. He faces life in prison if convicted.