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Trial Begins for Old White Man Who Senselessly Shot and Killed Black Middle-Schooler

Days after a jury found George Zimmerman innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin, another racially-charged murder trial begins.
 
 
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Opening statements for the trial of a seventy-six-year-old white man accused of murdering his thirteen-year-old Black neighbor began Tuesday, unveiling the heartbreaking details of the May 2010 shooting that occurred in broad day light in Milkwaukee. In a video the prosecution showed to jurors, sixth-grader Darius Simmons drags his trash can inside before stepping outside, at which point his nextdoor neighbor John Spooner approaches him with a handgun. Simmons backs up fearfully, and Spooner briefly points the pistol at the young boy's mother, Patricia Larry, who was sitting on the steps of her home. Spooner fires and shoots the child in the chest as his mother watches. The wounded youth stumbles away, and Spooner fires again, missing. Moments later, Simmons was dead. 

Larry testified that she ran toward her son, and placed her hand on his neck, where she felt a light pulse.

“Then I pulled his shirt up and I (saw) he had a bullet hole in his chest,” she said through tears, “He took one more breath and that’s it.”

A video of Spooner's interrogation shows the killer saying he shot Simmons because he thought the middle schooler burglarized his home and stole his shotguns. The Associated Press explains:

Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry, testified that Spooner warned her to call 911 and accused her son of burglarizing his home. She said Spooner told her son he’d teach him not to steal, then fired the shot that struck the boy in his chest.

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[Milwaukee police officer Michael Urbaniak] testified that he and Martinez placed Spooner in the back of a squad car while they investigated the scene. While being detained, Spooner commented that he had reached his breaking point and that his house had been broken into two days earlier, Urbaniak said.

The officer said Spooner claimed he knew the culprits were the kids who lived next door, and that they were part of a black family that recently moved next door and had caused nothing but trouble. Spooner is white.

In other words, another lawless white man callously profiled a Black child, rendered him guilty, and took his life with a bullet. 

The defense claims Spooner did not intend to "kill" Simmons by shooting him at point-blank range. If the old, bearded white man is found guilty of murder, another round in court must then determine if he was mentally sound at the time of the killing. While the evidence in this case should make for an easier conviction than George Zimmerman's, the trial is yet another example of America's failure to value the lives of young, Black men. Today, Democracy Now reported on "Operation Ghetto Storm," the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) project that found "at least 136 unarmed African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes in 2012." 

Justice for these slain Black youths is not only in the court room, but a committment to stopping the thought patterns that kill kids 'guilty' only of being Black.

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne

 
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