Dyteon Simpson grew up in rural West Feliciana Parish, the adopted son of a retired church minister. His criminal record was virtually nonexistent until he was arrested last week and accused of pulling his gun during a fistfight — ending the life of LSU basketball player Wayde Sims.
A pair of glasses knocked from the shooter’s face, a deluge of tips from the community and a sleepless 24 hours for Baton Rouge law enforcemen…
Police said Simpson, 20, has confessed to shooting Sims in the head. He's now being held in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on $350,000 bond as his decisions during a few moments last week threaten to define the rest of his life.
Simpson's criminal record includes only one prior arrest: a misdemeanor summons in Baker that resulted from him having violated curfew during the 2016 floods. Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn said Simpson was issued a summons for one count of contributing to the delinquency of juveniles because he was with two younger teenagers who also were in violation of the curfew at the time.
East Baton Rouge authorities said court records indicate no additional arrests in the parish and 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla said the same for his district, which covers East and West Feliciana parishes.
It does not appear Simpson was on the radar for local law enforcement as a potential troublemaker until he surfaced as a suspect in Sims' killing.
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Residents of St. Francisville who knew Simpson during his childhood said a local retired minister and his wife raised Simpson from the time he was a baby. He spent his childhood living with the couple in a mobile home just off Solitude Road, which runs into Tunica Trace north of St. Francisville.
The family attended church just down the road — often splitting their time between home and church, according to people who knew them.
Residents said the man who raised Simpson was Leon Hargrove, a retired minister and U.S. Army veteran from St. Francisville who died in 2010, according to his obituary.
Monday in St. Francisville people who knew him in his youth recalled him fondly but said they hadn't seen him in several years.
"All I know is he was a good boy, always coming and going from church and Sunday school," said one woman who declined to give her name. She said she was shocked at the news of Simpson's arrest. "I can't imagine what must've happened to him because he was not raised to do something like that."
She said Simpson left West Feliciana with his adoptive older sister Adriane Hargrove, who moved to the Baker area sometime after her father's death. Her Baker residence is listed as Simpson's home address on recent arrest documents. She declined to comment when reached by phone on Sunday.
Both Adriane Hargrove and Simpson are listed as surviving children of Leon Hargrove in a 2011 civil case alleging that Leon Hargrove suffered health effects from job-related asbestos exposure. Adriane Hargrove is also listed in the suit as Simpson's "tutrix" or legal guardian.
Simpson attended West Feliciana schools until the spring of his freshman year in high school, said district Superintendent Hollis Milton. It's unclear whether Simpson continued attending school in another district or ultimately received his diploma after that.
People who knew his family said Simpson was a quiet child who spent his time inside, at church or riding his bike around the rural West Feliciana community.
"That's why it shocked me so much. Something must've happened to him," another woman said, also declining to give her name. "This was probably his first fight."
Residents said Simpson had worn glasses from the time he was a toddler.
Police used DNA evidence collected from a pair of glasses found on the scene of the shooting to support their arrest of Simpson. Witnesses said the glasses were knocked off the shooter's face during the fight.
Members of the Baton Rouge and LSU community took to social media following Sims' death and Simpson's arrest with wide-ranging reactions to the information police shared with the public — that Sims stepped into a fistfight outside a fraternity party just off Southern University campus in an effort to defend his friend. Investigators reported receiving a deluge of tips after releasing video of the fight and asking for the public's help.
Simpson later confessed to punching Sims' friend and then intentionally shooting Sims, according to his arrest report. Police have not said whether they've recovered the gun used in the shooting.
Some people on social media condemned Simpson's alleged actions unequivocally, saying there's no excuse for pulling a gun during a fistfight, especially when the person killed had stepped into the fight on someone else's behalf. But others questioned the decisions of everyone involved in the fight, saying they all could have walked away to avoid a potential tragic outcome.
Speaking to media after Simpson's arrest on Saturday morning, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul pointed to the lack of conflict resolution among young men that often underlies acts of gun violence.
"We're dealing with a young generation of men that needs a change of heart," Paul said. "And the only institutions that I know of that are in the heart business are faith and family. It starts at home."
Advocate staff writers Grace Toohey and Charles Lussier contributed to this report.