Thousands of mourners and a swarm of media are expected at Friday morning's funeral for fallen Los Angeles Police Department SWAT Officer Russel Simmons, who was shot to death on February 7 in a horrific shootout in the San Fernando Valley.
LAPD officials are predicting an overflow crowd and one of the largest LAPD funerals since the funeral of Chief William H. Parker in 1966.
Scheduled to attend are Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAPD Police Chief William Bratton and Los Angeles Fire Chief Doug Barry as well as hundreds of out-of-state and local officers and firefighters.
SWAT officer James Veenstra, who was badly wounded in the shootout, and whose life was believed saved when Simmons stepped in harm's way, has been released from the hospital and is expected to attend.
The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday at the Crenshaw Christian Faith Dome, 7901 S. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.
Simmons was shot and killed by 20-year-old Edwin Rivera, who gunned down his own father and two brothers in his family home. Simmons was one of seven officers who stormed the Rivera home. He was shot in the head moments after Veenstra was felled by gunfire, with critical injuries to his face and jaw. Two other SWAT officers were slightly wounded.
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A public outpouring of sympathy for Simmons and his family has been intense. On Wednesday, a downtown Burger King donated 100 percent of their sales proceeds for the day to Simmons' wife and two children, and hundreds of well-wishers showed up to buy burgers between 6 a.m. and midnight. On Thursday, mourners filed into the Glory Christian Fellowship International Church in Carson for a viewing of Simmons, who became the first member of the LAPD's SWAT team killed in the line of duty. He was an active member of the Carson Church.
Eleven years ago, Simmons founded the mobile Glory Kids Ministries, spending Saturdays at various low-income housing projects including Imperial Courts in Watts and Scottsdale Housing Community in Carson. He appeared in a colorful truck that offered a sidewalk church program for kids involving puppet shows, skits, games, songs and dances — all aimed at keeping them away from gangs and drugs.
Twice a year, Simmons transformed the parking lot of the Glory Christian Fellowship International Church in Carson into a carnival for kids. On Sundays, he picked up children who lived in the projects and residents from sober living and transitional homes, and delivered them to the church for services.
Burial is to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.