The parents of Washburn University football player Dwane Simmons are demanding justice after the 23-year-old was shot dead at a house party over the weekend.
Dwane was out celebrating his roommate Corey Ballentine being drafted by the New York Giants NFL team in the early hours on Sunday morning when gunfire was reported on a residential street in Topeka, Kansas.
Detectives told the family that Dwane and Ballentine were about to leave the party hosted by Washburn’s women’s soccer team when a car pulled up in front of the home and the passengers asked them a question.
The car then circled back around and someone inside started shooting, killing Dwane and injuring Ballentine, 23.
‘This was a senseless murder,’ Dwane’s father Navarro Simmons said. ‘This shattered a lot of people.’
Navarro spoke to the media as friends and family gathered at Dwane’s childhood home in Lees Summit, a suburb of Kansas City, hours after his death.
The heartbroken father described the moment Ballentine called him on Sunday morning to deliver the devastating news that his son had been killed.
‘I was like, hey Corey, congratulations and this and that, but then when he said, no Mr Simmons, it’s not good,’ Navarro told KSHB.
‘My heart just dropped and I just hopped up out of bed, I was scared.’
Fighting back tears, Dwane’s mother Chaquilla Everette told the Kansas City Star: ‘For someone to take him so senselessly, I mean he didn’t deserve it, I never thought my son would be gone this soon.
‘He was well loved at Washburn so, if anybody hears anything, I believe somebody’s going to say something.’
Navarro also pleaded for anyone with information about Dwane’s murder to come forward.
‘My son deserves justice, please speak up if you know anything, they have anonymous lines out there, speak up,’ he said as Dwane’s sister cried into his shoulder.
Addressing whoever pulled the trigger, Navarro said: ‘You hurt a lot of people. Turn yourself in.’
Relatives described Dwane as ‘the life of the party’ with an infectious smile who was constantly surrounded by those who loved him.
‘That’s what I will remember the most about my son, just his loving, funny spirit,’ Navarro said.
The college junior had dreams of playing in the NFL or ‘anywhere that would have him’ and was studying mass media at Washburn so he could cover football as a reporter if his plans to play professionally didn’t pan out.
He was sidelined for the 2016 season and most of the 2017 season due to back-to-back ACL tears but returned to the field last fall.
He told the Topeka Capital-Journal at the time: ‘It’s more than a game to me now. I came in as a walk-on and had to earn a scholarship, then tore an ACL, redshirted and tore another one.
‘It really puts everything in perspective that this game can be taken away from you in a blink of an eye. So I take this game to heart. I get emotional about this stuff and I take this game very, very seriously, and I’m having a great time.’
Washburn’s head football coach, Craig Schurig, called Dwane’s death ‘heartbreaking’.
‘You’ve got a young man that’s doing everything right, and that’s what tragedy is, when things are going really well and something shocking happens,’ Schurig said of the defensive back he’d coached since 2015.
‘He’s got everything geared toward his senior year, he’s on pace to graduate and he’s a young man that just works his tail off; whether it’s coming back from injury our keeping on top of his grades, he worked at it.
‘We were riding high from having [Ballentine] get drafted, one of his best friends, and this happening is just hard to put your mind around, hard to wrap yourself around it.’
Schurig called Dwane ‘one of the most energetic and well-liked players I have ever coached at Washburn’ and said his death has had a profound impact on the entire university community.
‘He’s got one of those infectious personalities that people are attracted to him and he’s charismatic and all that, so he knew a lot of people, not just the athletes,’ Schurig said. ‘A lot of people were fond of Dwane and everything he’s done.’
The coach said he’d gone to the hospital on Sunday to visit Ballentine, who is expected to fully recover after a few weeks.
‘I was able to check on him and he looked like he was going to be OK,’ Schurig said.
‘If there’s a silver lining to any of it, it would be that more people weren’t injured. It’s as tragic as can be, but there could have been more people hurt by this.’
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SOURCE: Daily Mail – MEGAN SHEETS and ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES