This earnest memoir recalls a SWAT officer who lived and died for the greater good of his community.
Simmons’ book centers on her late husband, Randy Simmons, the first SWAT officer in Los Angeles Police Department history to be killed in the line of duty. The biography tenderly chronicles Randy’s devoutly Christian childhood in Brooklyn and LA, his years in college trying and failing to make the NFL draft, and finally his callings to become a police officer and marry Lisa, his “soul mate.” Together, they build a family and a rich life of community service, from Glory Kids, the church organization Randy launches (and Lisa assists with whether she wants to or not!) to help inner-city kids and families, to the volunteer SWAT efforts he dutifully signs on for. The hostage situation that kills him, which involves a mentally unstable man with a gun, is one such mission. The last quarter of the book describes the aftermath of his death, beginning with the planning of an internationally televised 10,000-person funeral. As Lisa explains to her heartbroken children: “People love your father because he was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.” This moving, well-written biography is as much a love story as it is an homage to Randy’s remarkable goodwill. Simmons describes their relationship with a lot of lightness and humor, adeptly developing the marriage itself as a character that we grow to love and that we miss when Randy’s gone. (Says Randy: “When was the last time y’all been to church?” Lisa replies: “Okay, Moses, you gonna lead the way?”) Understandably, Simmons does not criticize Randy or show him as anything but heroic. It’s only when Lisa is excluded from the police investigation surrounding the unsavory circumstances of Randy’s death that we see another, more nuanced dimension to the story; even then, a potentially gripping plotline seems stifled by Lisa’s loyalty to Randy, who would not have wanted the name of the LAPD tarnished. Nonetheless, it’s that same loyalty that lends real charm and depth to this intimate portrait of Randy Simmons, as well as of the LAPD as a whole, here given a warm, nuanced complexity and a representation rarely seen in the news.
An affectionate final word on an inspiring man comes from his devoted wife.