Every spouse of a law enforcement officer fears that middle-of-the-night phone call. Author Lisa Simmons has lived that nightmare. On February 7, 2008, her fifty-one-year-old husband Randy Simmons responded to a "SWAT Call-Up" in Winnetka, California, where he was tragically killed at the hands of a deranged man during an eleven-hour hostage rescue standoff that resulted in a quadruple homicide.
In 41 D-Man of Valor Lisa tells the story of her husband's multifaceted life and of his amazing accomplishments both in and out of uniform. This biography narrates how Randy overcame trials and tribulations, how he put his faith in God, and how he worked tirelessly to better the lives of underprivileged children. It shares the details of his life as a devoted husband, father, mentor, minister, football coach, and twenty-seven-year-veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. It discusses his death as the first in LAPD history of a SWAT officer losing his life in the line of duty, of his most unprecedented funeral, and of the awards he received following his death.
With honesty, candor, and conviction, 41 D-Man of Valor delivers a true story about a man who continues to inspire as much in death as he did in life. It shows how his legacy lives on through the many people he touched.
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41 D MAN OF VALORThe Story of SWAT Officer Randy Simmons
By Lisa Simmons
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Lisa Simmons
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSaying Good-Bye to New York
Walking out onto the streets in Brooklyn, New York, the smell of warm baking bread coming from one of the nearby pizzerias was wafting through the air, while at the other end of the block lots of activity was going on. However, the congregant members of the Deliverance Evangelistic Center, Pentecostal Church, were oblivious to the aromas and busy streets that defined the district, as they were all more concerned about what was going on in their own lives and in their church.
Outside the church on the hot, humid day in August of 1970, several men were strutting about in their Sunday best, shaking hands with the reverend and others who were attending church. The men looked fancy in their three-piece suits with matching ties. Some even added character to their apparel by wearing shiny Stacy Adam shoes and Stetson top hats adorned with feathers placed aptly on the side. The women were also a sight to see as they paraded around in their finest apparel, complete with beautiful big hats and pointy three-inch heels, accessorized with matching purses. Those who were really into fashion and style topped off their smart-looking outfits with summery white gloves and wore strong flowery perfume. Looking fastidious yet lovely in their finery, they greeted each other with high-pitched voices, giving out hugs and kisses to friends as their children yelled, played, and ran in between them while holding tightly to their Sunday school projects.
The congregant members appeared to be happy and inspired by the sermon of the day. However, fourteen-year-old Randy Simmons felt quite the opposite; He felt that life was crashing down on him. An unexpected and unwanted turn of events was about to happen, and Randy was struggling with emotion that could not be voiced.
Standing in the doorway of the church, Randy sadly watched his parents, Dallas and Constance Simmons, as they stood on the steps of the church, kissing congregants as they said their final good-byes. They were leaving Brooklyn and their friends behind because of a calling on Dallas's life, leading him to the West Coast, where he planned to attend Fuller Seminary College in Pasadena, California.
Randy's religious father, Matthew Dallas Simmons, known to friends and congregants as Dallas, stood tall, slender, and handsome. As he was an African American man with a very light complexion, some questioned his nationality. His straight black hair and high cheekbones reflected his Indian heritage, completing his sharp, keen features. He was a good-looking man with the qualities of a striking movie star.
Randy's mother, Constance Simmons, known as Connie, was also attractive. She was a dark-complexioned African American woman of average height and size. She took great pride in her appearance and looked sophisticated all the time, with a style that was nothing short of elegant.
It was an exciting time for Dallas, as he was optimistic about receiving a master's degree in divinity and one day being the pastor of his own church. Reverend Skinner, an older African American man and pastor to Dallas, proudly gave Dallas his blessing. Ultimately, Reverend Skinner would be the catalyst that connected Dallas to some very prominent men of the cloth in California.
As Dallas said his good-byes to Reverend Skinner, he took him aside and carefully chose his words. "I want to thank you for your teachings," he said. "I truly appreciate you and will never forget all that you have done for me and my family."
Reverend Skinner responded by saying, "We'll be praying for you, Connie, and the kids, and if there is anything you need from us, please don't hesitate to call." He extended his hand and then gave Dallas a big hug.
Young Randy, the skinny little child of Dallas and Connie, had other plans and dreams, so he was not enthused about the move to California. Quite frankly, he was furious. The thought of being pulled away from his friends was too much for him to bear, but he was a humble and obedient young man, so he said nothing. Generally quiet around people he didn't know, Randy only let his hair down when he was with his friends, and only then would he allow himself to be loud and crazy. Most people characterized him as a good kid who was respectful of others and didn't like trouble. He was a good boy across the board.
As Randy walked back and sat inside on the pew of the now-emptied church, he looked around at the familiar view, tears filling his eyes and streaming down his face. He felt hopeless and started praying, asking God for help. He had often heard the adult members of the church praying, screaming, and shouting for a blessing from above. Maybe, just maybe, if he did the same, the Holy Ghost would miraculously change his father's heart and mind about this move to California.
Exiting the church, Randy's heart was broken because he knew that his world was going to change forever. As far as Randy was concerned, his father's timing couldn't be worse, as things were starting to look up for Randy. Recently, he and his friends had been on the practice field at Hofstra University Stadium and met the handsome and popular quarterback Joe Namath of the New York Jets. Realizing that the boys dreamed of one day playing football, Mr. Namath gave them some advice on working out and building muscles so that they could be strong enough to play one day.
"You boys do well in school," he said. "Eat right and exercise every day."
"We will, Mr. Namath," replied the boys enthusiastically.
As Joe Namath walked away tossing a football, Randy and his friends watched with awe.
As a group, Randy and his friends had been as close as the Rat Pack. They had been friends for quite a while, and they made a promise to each other that they would work out together and play football every day so that one day they would be drafted into the NFL. But now a drastic move to California was about to interrupt Randy's plans and his workout routine. His father was taking him thousands of miles away from his friends, and it would probably be years before he'd see them again.
Randy's mind was working overtime, trying hard to come up with all sorts of reasons to give his father about why they should not move to California. However, he dared not question his father about any decision, nor could he show any signs of displeasure or discord, since his father was as a strict disciplinarian. Consequently, any opposition might be misconstrued as disobedience. It was therefore in Randy's best interest not to speak about what he felt, but instead to keep his feelings to himself and simply go along with his father's wishes.
Perhaps Dallas's upbringing was responsible for his firm disposition. He was the youngest of eight children, and his mother died shortly after he was born, leaving him to be raised by his handsome playboy father, a man who had abandoned his family and spent most of his time in the streets chasing women.
Given that most of Dallas's siblings were older and already living on their own, only a few younger children were at home and in need of their father's attention. However, his lifestyle conflicted with his parenting role, and he refused to be weighed down with the responsibility of raising baby Dallas or the other young children. As a result, Dallas and his siblings were split up and sent to foster care, where Dallas spent his younger years being neglected and mistreated.
Dallas's older siblings tried earnestly to save their little brother by taking him out of foster care whenever their finances would permit, but shortly thereafter, when their money ran out, they would lose him back to the foster care system.
In contrast, Connie, Randy's mother, came from a much different childhood. As the youngest of nine children, Connie was from a humble upbringing, living in a religious house where prayer was as common as eating. Connie's mother, who was affectionately known as "Big Mama," courageously chose to leave Norfolk, Virginia, in her attempt to get away from an abusive and alcoholic husband. She secretly saved up enough money and toted her kids by train to New York. Big Mama was poor and at times struggled desperately to keep her family healthy and together, but her faith led her to persevere, no matter how difficult or how tough things became. Even through poverty, she managed, as a single parent, to raise her children in a happy and healthy environment.
Unfortunately, Dallas's lack of parental love and a difficult upbringing accounted for his inability to connect with Randy in the traditional ways that most dads connected with their sons. He had his own way of expressing love, and the interactive activities that he had with Randy normally stayed within the realm of religion. Consequently, there was never any real father-son activity outside of church and the Christian community outreach for the poor.
A father and son bond of tossing a football, fishing at a lake, or making a trip to a baseball game were activities that were far and few. In fact, Dallas would often interrupt Randy's activity time with church activity or prayer. He would often call Randy in from playing football with his friends to have prayer time with the family. Initially, Randy would be frustrated at his father's prayer request, but the moment he knelt down to pray, he would adjust his attitude and give reverence to God. For at a young age, Randy knew and understood that nothing, including football, superseded worshipping God.
Even though Randy thought his father's religious rituals were a little outlandish at times, he took it all in stride. He actually admired and respected many things about his father. He admired his compassion for the poor and his empathy for mankind, and after church services, he would sometimes accompany his father into poverty-stricken housing project sites in New York so Dallas could share the gospel. Randy would be there right beside him, handing out pamphlets to the homeless, the sick, the poor, and the brokenhearted, as well as those who lived in underserved areas. He would watch and listen to his father preach to them about salvation and the kingdom of God, and the sermons fascinated him. He was amazed by his father's knowledge and wisdom about the Bible. And even though this wasn't a traditional father and son outing, it was what his father knew Randy needed to hear, as the word of God would carry him through life. It was Dallas's own special and unique way of spending time with his son and expressing his love for him.
Connie, Randy's mother, was religious as well and lived her life as a faithful Christian woman, devoted wife, and loving mother. In fact, she was an anchor and pillar of strength for the entire family. Besides providing a sense of comfort to Randy and his two sisters, she was perceived as the endearing mommy, the one who often served as the buffer between her kids and her husband. She and Randy had a wonderful relationship, and Randy confided in her about everything. When he became a teenager, he used her as his sounding board to complain endlessly about his father's actions, behavior, and warped sense of thinking, which became more stringent over the years. In return, Connie listened with a compassionate heart and an open mind. She responded with words of encouragement, a biblical scripture, prayer, or the warmth of a hug. More often than not, she agreed with Randy's valid points, which made him feel better about the situation; however, she would never contradict her husband's actions or his way of handling things. Nevertheless, she did act on Randy's behalf every so often, bringing a petition to her husband to lessen a punishment or reverse a denied request.
Connie was totally committed to supporting her husband and his dreams, so she never wavered in her faithfulness or thought twice about going against decisions Dallas had made. Instead, she was always there by his side, ready to take on the consequences of his actions ... good, bad, or indifferent. She exemplified and defined what most would perceive as the good, faithful, and obedient wife. At times, and to her own detriment, she excused his wrongdoings and indiscretions by rationalizing his behavior.
She essentially had a hard time holding Dallas accountable for his actions because she loved him so much and because of his good looks and charisma. Dallas's behavior was easily forgiven. Through her forgiveness of his worldly ways, it was obvious that Connie worshipped the ground he walked on. And now she was taking her commitment to Dallas even further, as she was ready to support him 100 percent in his pursuit of becoming a reverend in California.
In the middle of August, the moving van arrived at the Simmons household. All their bags and belongings had been packed, and they said their good-byes to the Uniondale, Long Island, New York, address. They were as prepared as they could be for the far move, traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast.
Randy, the middle child, with about five-year age difference between each sister, traveled by plane with his younger sister, Gina, and his parents, while his older sister, Valjean, who was nineteen then, stayed behind in New York fulfilling employment obligations. Randy and his younger sister Gina, who was about nine years of age, sat together on the plane. They were excited about their first flight, which became even more exciting when they met the famous basketball star Wilt Chamberlain. Displaying feelings of excitement, they could barely sit still. To help pass the time, they played creative games that included analyzing clouds in the sky and relating their shapes to earthly objects. When Randy became bored with games, he spent a few hours sleeping, drawing, and thinking about football and his workout plan. He visualized his new school, wondering what life would be like in California.
As they flew farther away from New York, Randy began to feel the anticipation of his new life. In an attempt to feel better, he started rationalizing the move by thinking the transition would probably be easy for him since technically he was a true Californian. He would often brag to his New York buddies about how he was born in San Bernardino, California, when his father was in the military and stationed at Norton Air Force Base. But within minutes, he would quickly snap back to reality, faced with the fact that he knew nothing about California, since New York was really his home. It took approximately six and a half hours before their flight landed in California, and for most of the flight, Randy could not help but hope that leaving New York would ultimately be a decision his father would come to regret, and that they would be back to his real home within the year.
Chapter TwoWelcome to California
When Randy and his family arrived in California, they couldn't help but be impressed by the sunny weather, the gorgeous palm trees, the mountains that appeared to touch the sky, the beautiful beaches that outlined the city, and the beautiful girls the Beach Boys sang about. It wasn't too long before Randy's view about California started to change. Randy's father and mother initially settled in a residence near Fuller Seminary College in Pasadena, California, mostly because it seemed more practical since Dallas would be attending college in Pasadena.
Randy was enrolled in John Muir Junior High School, which was near the family home. Being a newcomer, Randy tried eagerly to make friends; however, a group of bullies greeted him every day, each one picking fights and stealing things from him regularly. The torturous behavior made him even more homesick for New York, and he was relentless in his complaints to his mother.
"Mommy, I hate it here!" he cried. "Someone stole my leather jacket! When are we going back to New York?"
"This is home now, Randy, but things will get better. I promise you." She hugged him. "Daddy and I are going to the school tomorrow to talk with the principal about those boys."
"I don't fit in here. I hate California! The kids here are mean. Can you just talk to Daddy about going back to New York? Please, Mommy," Randy begged.
Randy pleaded with his mom constantly, hoping she would ask his father to return home to New York, but it was too late for such a request. His parents had already settled in to new employment, with his father landing a job as a city bus driver for the Regional Transportation District, also known as RTD, and his mother finding employment doing accounting work for a retail store. Randy's hopes of returning to New York were getting slimmer as the days went by.
Excerpted from 41 D MAN OF VALOR by Lisa Simmons Copyright © 2012 by Lisa Simmons. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. Saying Good-Bye to New York....................1
2. Welcome to California....................9
3. From Fairfax to Washington State....................14
4. Far from Home....................24
5. An Unexpected Journey....................35
6. A Badge for Officer Simmons....................41
8. T.G.I. Friday's....................50
9. Dating "Baby Girl"....................56
10. Tying the Knot....................67
11. And the Two Shall Become One....................75
12. Family + SWAT + Church = A Busy Lifestyle....................89
13. The Balancing Act....................98
14. Committing to a Vigorous and Rigorous Life....................111
15. Call to Duty....................118
16. Church, Family, and Glory Kids....................127
18. Time Is a Silent Thief....................149
19. Welby Way....................163
20. Press B, Please....................168
21. Breaking News....................176
22. Planning the Funeral....................185
23. The Outpouring of Love....................202
24. 41D—End of Watch....................216
25. The Aftermath....................233
26. The Unsubstantiated Investigation....................247
27. Mixed Emotions....................259
28. A Twist in the Maze....................272
29. Honors and Dedications....................284
30. My New Normal....................291
31. Grace for a New Season....................300
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41D Man of Valor was an amazing story about SWAT Officer Randy Simmons' life as told courageously by his wife, Lisa Simmons. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs encouragement. Lisa shared and detailed so many special, personal and private moments of Randy's life. I was left feeling that I was right there through it all and by end of the reading I was encouraged. Her writing style made it easy for the reader to follow every account and aspect of the life of a true Man of Valor. This book took me on a journey where I experienced every emotion from crying to laughing out loud to praising God. I was inspired by Randy's dedication to his faith, family and the Glory Kids. I was moved by Lisa's strength... PERIOD. Her commitment to honor Randy's memory and maintain a "new normal" for their kids was and is commendable.