New York City

I-Team: Suicide or Murder? Forensic Pathologist Says Ex-High School Football Star's Death Was a Homicide

Within days of Johmeik Simmons' shooting death, the Medical Examiner ruled it a suicide. Now, a forensic pathologist says he believes the death was a homicide

What to Know

  • Johmeik Simmons, 20, was fatally shot in the head in a Freeport, Long Island, home in November 2016
  • Within days of his death, the Medical Examiner ruled it a suicide
  • Now, a forensic pathologist reviewing the complete file of Simmons said he believes the death was a homicide

You might dismiss Tihesha Climer as a grieving mom refusing to accept the suicide of her son, Johmeik Simmons, fatally shot during a visit to a Freeport, Long Island home in November of 2016.

Within days of the incident, the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office ruled the death a suicide. Police told Climer that two teenage boys in a room with Simmons claimed the 20-year-old suddenly pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

The former football star had just been given a clean bill of health after cancer treatment.

Now, a forensic pathologist reviewing the complete file of Simmons said he believes the death was a homicide.

The family consulted with Dr. Jonathan Arden, a former New York City medical examiner, providing him with autopsy and crime scene reports and photos obtained through a freedom of information request.

The case was officially closed by the Nassau County District Attorney’s office in July 2017. Two private investigators who took on the Simmons case pro bono say the evidence strongly pointed to a homicide. DNA from the recovered gun came from multiple sources, and swabs taken from one of the teens tested positive for gun residue. 

The police department said it did a thorough investigation and found no probable cause to make an arrest.

Arden’s report indicated there were signs of an altercation and that features of the gunshot wound suggested it was not self-inflicted.

“I believe someone else shot him,” Arden said.

The family attorney sent a formal letter to the Medical Examiner’s office demanding the cause of death be changed to homicide and the death be reinvestigated.

“The teens who were in that room should definitely be brought back and questioned,” attorney Abe George said. “There is no statute of limitations on homicide.”

A spokesperson, Christine Geed, said the Medical Examiner stands by the finding of suicide.

“The Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office disagrees with the consultant’s conclusion. We base our opinion on correlation of all available information regarding circumstances proved by NCPD that is consistent with the autopsy findings. The manner of death in this case will remain the same," the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the District Attorney's office, Miriam Sholder, said, “The Nassau County District Attorney conducted an independent review of the evidence that did not rely on the Medical Examiner’s determination and concluded there is insufficient evidence at this time to charge anyone in the tragic death.”

George said he is now preparing a request for a judge to order the Medical Examiner’s finding changed.

Climer said, “I won’t stop fighting. Justice for my son is a trial and a guilty verdict for those who murdered him.”

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