It didn’t take long for jurors in Milwaukee to convict John Spooner of first-degree intentional homicide Wednesday (July 17). The senior citizen gunned down a young Black teen last year because he thought the boy stole from him.
Like the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, this case also involves a similar racial breakdown, and a fatal shot to the chest. However, there was never any question as to who was the aggressor, and it wasn’t 13-year-old Darius Simmons (killed in front of his mother). It was Spooner.
Surveillance footage from the 76-year-old’s home clearly shows him brandishing a firearm and pointing it at Simmons, as his mother Patricia Larry, watched in horror. “He told Darius that he’s going to teach him not to steal,” Larry said on the stand during Spooner’s trial. “And he shot him.”
Defense lawyer Franklyn Gimbel argued that Spooner wasn’t guilty by reason of mental disease, but didn’t want him acquitted. “This is not a case for a not guilty verdict. Reckless homicide is a more appropriate description of what John Spooner did.”
The judge gave reckless homicide as a second option to first-degree homicide. Jurors deliberated for two hours before coming back with a verdict.
On May 31, 2012 Simmons went outside to bring in a trash can off the street, when he was confronted by Spooner. He accused the youngster of breaking into his home two days prior and stealing four of his guns.
Spooner admitted to the shooting but during closing statements Gimbel shifted the focus to his client’s mental state, a theory debunked by the prosecution. “He knew he was going to kill the guy,” District Attorney Mark Williams said. “He didn’t shoot him in the foot or the arm– he shot him right in the middle of the chest. That was not a shot that was meant to scare someone.”
The security camera shows him pulling the gun out on the boy and firing.Despite the evidence, Gimbel told the jury, “There’s nothing in the video you saw that gives you an X-ray of John Spooner’s mind.” Williams countered pointing out the “scared” look on Simmons’ face, and Spooner’s belief that he had been robbed. “He planned it. In the video of the shooting, he is outside when he sees Darius, he goes back inside to get his gun and comes out and shoots him. It wasn’t just a random crazed act.”
When police arrived to the scene Spooner knew his fate. “They are going to throw the book at me because I shot a kid,” he told cops. “I really don’t have much longer to live on this Earth.”
Spooner had long exercised his 2nd Amendment right to bare arms. In 2006 police seized, and later returned, 16 guns from Spooner when he was suspected of harboring a felon.
See the shooting below. Please be warned that the footage is graphic.
Photo: Journal Sentinel