I-Team: Long Island Mother Goes To Court Seeking Justice For Her Son - NBC New York

I-Team: Long Island Mother Goes To Court Seeking Justice For Her Son

An independent investigation showed the medical examiner's findings may not have been accurate in a 20-year-old's reported suicide, and now the victim's mother is going to court to get it overturned

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    I-Team: LI Mother Seeks to Get Justice for Her Son

    A rising football star on Long Island was ruled to have killed himself by the medical examiner after the two other people in the room at the time of the shooting said he pulled out the gun and fired. But an independent investigation showed that may not have been the case, and now the victim's mother is taking her case to court to get the ruling overruled.The I-Team's Sarah Wallace reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019)

    What to Know

    • A football star was ruled to have killed himself by the M.E. after 2 other people present at the time of the shooting said he shot himself

    • But an independent investigation showed that may not have been the case, and now the victim's mother is taking her case to court

    • “My son would not kill himself,” Tihesha Climer said about son Johmeik Simmons. “He had everything to live for. He’d just beaten cancer."

    Does science derail a theory of suicide in the death of a former high school football star?

    A few days after Johmeik Simmons was declared dead in November of 1016, the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death a suicide. The 20-year-old was fatally shot in the head at the home of a friend in Freeport, Long Island.

    Police reports later obtained through a freedom of information request revealed that two teenage boys said they had been in a room with Simmons when he suddenly pulled out a gun and shot himself. His mother, Tihesha Climer, questioned the police investigation from the beginning.

    “My son would not kill himself,” she said. “He had everything to live for. He’d just beaten cancer.” Simmons was in remission after cancer treatment and preparing to go to college. A private investigator, former NYPD homicide detective Eddie Dowd, took on the Simmons case pro bono. He and his partner, Israeli profiler Yael Rom, obtained the entire file, including crime scene photos, after police closed the case months after the death.

    AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson

    “They depended on the statements of two witnesses who had every reason to lie,” said Dowd. He added that there were multiple DNA samples found on the recovered gun, and gun residue matched swabs taken from one of the boys.

    In April, Dr. Jonathan Arden, a former New York City medical examiner consulting for the family, released a report after analyzing the Simmons file.

    “The evidence is conclusive this was a homicide and not a suicide,” Dr. Arden wrote.

    Dr. Arden’s report noted: “The shooting scene has strong indications an altercation occurred.” He specifically referred to “broken glass” and “a unique blood spatter pattern” in crime scene photos.

    The Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office refused to change the manner of death, saying it disagreed with Dr. Arden’s findings.

    An attorney for Climer filed a court challenge, asking a State Supreme Court Justice in Nassau County to order the ruling changed to homicide, and for the case to be re-investigated as a homicide.

    In court papers, a county attorney argued the petition should be dismissed because Climer, “Fails to meet her burden proving that the suicide classification lacked a reasonable basis,” and also that the legal challenge to the ME’s ruling was filed after the 120 day statute of limitations.

    The papers also said Simmons was reportedly upset about an argument with his father and had THC, an ingredient of marijuana, in his system.

    “There was no science here. It’s almost as if they ignored the science,” said Abe George, the attorney for Climer.

    He added, “What we got is confirmation they didn’t look at crime scene photos, that they relied on conversations with police officers that Johmeik Simmons, a 20-year-old with every reason to live, committed suicide.”

    The Judge, Randy Sue Marber, said she wanted to see additional written arguments from both sides before issuing a decision. The Nassau County police department told the I-team it conducted a thorough investigation into the Simmons case. A DA spokesperson said that office did an independent review and concluded there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest.

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