Grand jury reinstates charges against drug suspect
by By Tom Joyce
In what is effectively a case of no harm, no foul, a Surry County grand jury has indicted a Mount Airy man on drug and child abuse charges earlier dropped when an officer missed a court appearance.
Derrick Ray Simmons, 25, once again is facing felony violations of sale or delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine) and conspiracy to sell and deliver a Schedule II controlled substance, along with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
Simmons was charged in connection with a Jan. 11 drug transaction that led to his girlfriend being shot by city police.
The woman, whose name has not been released by authorities, suffered a non-life-threatening wound while reportedly acting as a human shield for her two children in a car containing Simmons and another man which narcotics officers attempted to stop. The officers said they fired after the driver tried to run them down.
After initially being charged with the drug and abuse violations, the latter relating to the presence of the children in the car, Simmons saw them dismissed in June. A District Court judge did so after one of the two officers, who was scheduled to testify at a hearing, failed to show.
Police Chief Dale Watson said later that an attempt would be made to refile the charges through the grand jury, a panel of county citizens who meet periodically to review evidence behind closed doors and decide whether to issue indictments. This is another method of charging someone with a crime, in addition to law enforcement officers doing so.
After hearing evidence in the Simmons case, the grand jury indicted him Monday. An indictment is not a finding of guilt, but a determination that there is sufficient evidence for a trial.
“It’s another step in the judicial process,” Watson said Tuesday regarding the latest development in the case.
He reiterated that the officer’s failure to appear in court was an innocent oversight, linked to his return from an administrative leave. Both narcotics officers who shot into the vehicle were placed on paid leave for several months after the January incident, a routine procedure in police-involved shootings.
The Surry County District Attorney’s Office later ruled that their actions were proper, based on a State Bureau of Investigation inquiry, and they returned to the police force.
Watson Tuesday blamed “a lack of communication” during the transitional period for the missed court date, but indicated that the grand jury’s action has righted the situation.
“We’re just thankful we were able to re-approach the issue,” the police chief said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.
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