Family of Man Killed by Deputy Speaks Out - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/22/05

Family of Man Killed by Deputy Speaks Out

The Simmons family looks at family photos. The Simmons family looks at family photos.

William Simmons' family is searching for answers. Why did Simmons carjack and try to rob two people on Tuesday? And why did a Beaufort County sheriff's deputy have to shoot and kill him?

Investigators say Tuesday evening, Simmons carjacked a man at a Hardeeville motel, then he tried to rob a woman at store parking lot in Bluffton. Deputy Tom Junkin chased Simmons and says he tried to arrest him, but Simmons resisted and hit him in the head with a gun.

Junkin says he grabbed his gun and shot Simmons in the chest. He says he feared for his own safety.

We spoke with Simmons family today. They don't deny that Simmons was wrong to rob those people. They don't condone his actions, but they say he was only trying to get money to buy Christmas presents. They describe the 38-year-old they call Bill as a family man.

His family says he had fallen on hard times. Subcontracting jobs weren't coming his way.

"My brother had always been a hard worker, and this time of year his work gets slack," said Tonya Benton. "He was worried because his kids didn't have any Christmas."

Bill has four kids, three boys and a girl. Paige is the oldest at 12. "He tells us he loves us every day, he would do anything for us," Paige told us.

They say he may have done some bad things, like carjacking and trying to rob two people on Tuesday. And he had a history of drunk driving and getting into fights, but they say he wasn't a bad person.

"If he was going to hurt someone, why did he let the man off and tell him where his car would be?" asked Tonya. "And when the lady screamed, he left. He would have never hurt anyone."

But the sheriff's deputy he fought with was hurt. Bill hit him with a gun.

"Bill had no bullets in that gun," said Tonya. "Bill would have fought the police officers, but Bill wouldn't have hurt the police officer." They say it was no reason for the deputy to shoot and kill him.

"I believe he should have Maced him or used a stun gun, anything," said Tonya. "He took away a father of four beautiful children and they're going to have to grow up without their dad."

Deputy Junkin is under investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the sheriff's department. But yesterday the sheriff told WTOC he thought the deputy's actions were justified.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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