TOPEKA (KSNT) – The man accused and convicted in the 2019 killing of Dwane Simmons, a Washburn University student, and football player, will spend life in prison.
During Friday’s sentencing, the family of Simmons provided the court with a video featuring photographs of Simmons, before family members spoke.
“If you knew my son, you would have liked him,” Simmons’ father, Navarro Simmons said to Mendez during the victim impact statement. “You decided that night to take his life, he was loved by everybody.”
“I feel like part of me has died,” Simmons’ sister said. “His life continues to shine, I miss my brother, I love him.
The prosecutor asked for the maximum when sentencing, with all sentences running consecutively. Deputy District Attorney Charles Kitt called the murder senseless. “I’ve never seen a more senseless act,” Kitt told the court.
Francisco Mendez was found guilty earlier this year of the shooting death of Simmons in 2019. The Washburn football player was killed on April 28, 2019, in an early morning shooting in Topeka while out with Corey Ballentine, who had been selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft the previous day. Ballentine was also shot.
Mendez did not have any words for the families of the victim when the judge gave him an opportunity to address them.
According to police, officers responded to reports of gunshots in the early morning hours in the 1400 block of 13th Street, where they found Simmons suffering from a gunshot wound on the street.
Simmons and Ballentine were standing outside a house party, according to authorities. During the jury trial, witnesses said the duo was leaving the party when, “they were approached and asked if they had some smoke or some gas, like for sale.” According to witnesses, Simmons and Ballentine said no, but the vehicle came back around and opened fire.
Simmons was buried in Kansas City on May 4, 2019.
Later that July, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay charged 18-year-old Francisco Mendez with the death of Simmons.
In January of 2020, the lawyer representing Francisco Mendez filed a motion to change the venue of the trial due to the media attention surrounding the case. That motion was denied on Jan. 31, 2020.
It would take three years before Mendez would be found guilty of shooting and killing Simmons. On March 25, 2022, a Shawnee County jury convicted Mendez on one county of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder, and seven counts of aggravated armed robbery.