Two men died this past year in separate police-involved shootings outside their homes in the Homestead and The Villages at Rancho El Dorado neighborhoods.

One of the men was fired on directly — and killed — by an officer as he advanced toward her. In the other incident, the man fired first at officers and was met with a hail of gunfire in return. But a continuing investigation has not yet established publicly that the man was killed by a police bullet.

March 27: ‘Just bring ’em’
Three officers were summoned in late March to the home of Lawrence Knudsen in the 20000 block of North Mac Neil Street in Homestead.

Knudsen, 56, had called 911, informed an emergency dispatcher that he was outside his home armed with a handgun and told her to send police.

The man had been on the phone with the 911 operator several times leading up to the fatal shooting. In his initial call to 911, he told the operator, “Nobody’s listening to me. I’m about to put a bullet in my head.”

Several times, he hung up and the dispatcher called him back.

At one point, Knudsen said, “I’m not looking to hurt any cops, OK?”

Authorities work the scene of the officer-involved shooting in Homestead North.

Later, he told the operator that he would confront police if they approached him.
Still later, Knudsen told the operator, “Just bring ’em. Bring the f***ers,” and “Let’s do this.”

When officers arrived and parked down the street, Knudsen sat on the tailgate of his truck and watched them get out of their vehicles with weapons drawn. He stood up and walked down the driveway, then continued down the street toward the law enforcement officers.

Police body camera footage showed an agitated Knudsen advancing on Officer Carmen Nylander as she repeatedly yelled, “Back up! Back the f*** up!” He continued to advance with his hands in the air, holding an object in each hand.

Nylander then fired four shots at Knudsen from 6 to 8 feet away after he ignored her commands and continued to advance on her. She can be heard uttering an expletive as Knudsen fell to the street and began to moan.

Just as Nylander fired, Officer Timothy Nye fired his Taser at Knudsen. A third officer, Irene McCorry, also responded but did not discharge a weapon.

Knudsen was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The incident, and Nylander’s role in it, was investigated by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation revealed Knudsen was holding a vape pen and a cell phone in his hands when he was shot. Knudsen left the handgun on the truck tailgate as he walked toward police.

Nylander told investigators she was afraid for her life as Knudsen came toward her.

After reviewing the state statute on police use-of-force and the results of the PCSO investigation, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer declined to charge Nylander criminally, saying his office determined the officer had acted within the law.

A sudden escalation
When several police vehicles rolled up on the 43900 block of West McCord Drive in The Villages of Rancho El Dorado on Aug. 29, it was familiar territory. Officers had been to the home of Brian Simmons several times previously to investigate reports of unusual behavior. This time it was a noise complaint from a neighbor.

On seeing Simmons that Monday morning — in a driveway strewn with possessions, music blaring — the officers greeted him by name. Police body-worn cameras showed Simmons and his dog walk out to the middle of the street, where an officer says, “Brian! How are you?” Simmons high-fived an officer as another is heard asking, “How’s it going, Brian?” Simmons then bumped elbows with an officer and says to another, “Give me a hug.”

Within moments, however, the friendly overtones disappeared. Simmons walked back to his driveway, picking up a firearm but not pointing at the officers.

Several times, officers can be heard commanding, “Hey Brian, put that down!” and “Drop the gun!” Simmons eventually places the gun on the driveway and raises his hands.

Neighbors were directed to shelter-in-place and Butterfield Elementary School,
a block away, was placed on lockdown.

Simmons continued to refuse several more commands, including one to get down on the ground. Eventually, an officer fired a non-lethal round, which appeared to hit Simmons. Despite commands to remain outside, he ignored them and went inside the home, where he holed up for several hours.

Simmons then suddenly appeared in the side yard of the home and fired a shotgun round at police and missing. Officers responded with a hail of gunfire. At least 22 shots were fired. There is a long silence.

PCSO SWAT members assist MPD officers with shooting in neighborhood immediately west of Butterfield Elementary School. [Bryan Mordt]
Police eventually put a camera-equipped drone in the air and spotted Simmons on the ground. To determine whether Simmons had survived the barrage, a flash-bang was fired to within feet of his body. He did not move. About 15 minutes later, members of the Pinal County SWAT team approached the side gate and peered over the top. They see Simmons’ lifeless body.

The police-involved shooting remains under investigation by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. It has not said yet definitively if Simmons was killed by police gunfire.

Simmons was a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho. After the incident, family members in Idaho said he was a former missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had a generous heart and gave to others less fortunate.

Simmons had alleged in a 2014 lawsuit that as a worker at an Idaho nuclear facility he was exposed to radiation while regularly handing plutonium and other radioactive materials.

Family members said they believe his exposure to radioactive Plutonium-238, a carcinogen, caused a personality change in Simmons.