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Student's expulsion is sought

A high school principal said Wednesday that he will recommend expulsion for a student who police say shot at two teen-agers in a car near Gibbs High School. Gibbs principal John C. Demps said he will recommend that the Pinellas County School Board expel Matthew Lee Simmons, 18. Police arrested Simmons on Tuesday. He is accused of shooting three bullets from a .45-caliber handgun into the front of a 1989 Ford Escort station wagon on Monday.

"I'm not going to tolerate that mess at school," Demps said. "We haven't had anything like this before."

No one was injured in the shooting at 5 p.m. at 34th Street and 15th Avenue S, said Wendell Creager, St. Petersburg police spokesman.

Simmons was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle, carrying a concealed firearm and introducing contraband into the county jail, records said. He was in the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday in lieu of $65,000 bail, records show.

The shooting stemmed from horseplay and a subsequent shoving match between Simmons and 17-year-old William Teal during the school day, Creager said.

He said Simmons stuck out his foot and tried to trip Teal, and Teal confronted him. Later that day, Simmons followed Teal and his girlfriend and then fired three shots into the grill of the station wagon, Creager said.

Simmons, of 4109 52nd Ave. S, was arrested after he tried to return to school Tuesday morning, Demps said. "He said he was going to class," Demps said. "I said, "I think you ought to go to my office.'


Demps said people need to realize that incidents such as this one are happening at many other schools in the county.

Barbara Crockett, School Board chairwoman, said she is aware that students are carrying weapons to school and something must be done about it.

"We expel students every board meeting because of weapons, guns, knives and other things," she said. "We certainly can't forgive them and let them come back into the schools."

April Barnes, Simmons' cousin, said Simmons has lived with her family for the past two years. She said her mother is his guardian. She said she knows Simmons well and he did not carry a gun.

"He wouldn't do anything like that," she said.

After the shoving incident at school Monday, Teal picked up his girlfriend, 17-year-old Lonette Frazier, and drove his mother's station wagon to a neighborhood barbershop, Creager said.

At the barbershop, Simmons and four others walked in and stared at Teal, Creager said. Then Simmons and the others piled into a small white car and followed Teal and Frazier to the McDonald's restaurant at Fourth Street and 16th Avenue S, Creager said. The couple left the restaurant.

Teal and Frazier were waiting at a traffic light at 34th Street and 15th Avenue S when a small white car pulled alongside them in the northbound lanes. Simmons, a passenger in the car, got out with a white cloth covering his face "like a Ninja," Creager said. He stood in front of the station wagon, pointed the gun at Teal and Frazier and then lowered the gun, firing three slugs into the grill, Creager said.

Demps said Simmons had been transferred to Gibbs during the summer because of disciplinary problems at Lakewood High School.

"We were just trying to keep the boy in school," said Demps, who first met Simmons during summer school. "We had been working with him, and he seemed to be having a good year here until now."