Dan Simmons Jr., said Thursday that hours after learning his father was shot to death in a mass slaying in Charleston, he started to wonder why Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. hadn’t stopped the killer.
Not only had Simmons Sr. always been the family’s protector, his son testified, but his father had a concealed weapons permit and nearly always carried his pistol – even in church.
“It bothered me that he wasn’t the protector,” Simmons Jr., said of the parishioners who were gunned down by Dylann Roof. “Why didn’t he do more?”
Simmons Jr., was one of 10 witnesses who testified on the second day of the penalty phase of Roof’s death penalty trial. Roof was convicted in December in the slayings of nine people at Emanuel AME church in Charleston.
“I didn’t understand why he didn’t carry a weapon to church that night,” said Simmons, his voice quavering. “It was hard for me, not knowing why he didn’t protect everybody.”
When Simmons received the keys to his father’s car from the coroner he got his answer.
“When I opened the car, it was sitting on the front seat,” said Simmons Jr., before collapsing into sobs on the witness stand. “He took it off before he went to church.”
Simmons Jr. recalled for jurors how he planned to head for Charleston from his home in Virginia on Father’s Day, which would’ve been the Sunday after Rev. Simmons was killed on June 17, 2015.
Instead, Simmons Jr. got a call from his cousin, telling him to on turn the TV. He saw his father being pulled out of the church on a stretcher.
Later, Simmons Jr. would find out that his father performed a final act of bravery that night. He went to aid Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Rev. Simmons is said to have yelled, “Let me check my pastor.”
His family’s protector was shot and killed after uttering those words.