Man charged with child abuse after allegedly striking 7-year-old at a St. George park

In this 2020 file photo St. George Police Officers respond to apartment complex off Dixie Drive in St. George, Utah, May 29, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News,

ST. GEORGE — A 25-year-old man has been charged with child abuse following an incident that took place at a St. George park days earlier when a child was allegedly struck on the head by a stranger who then fled from police.

The incident began Friday evening when officers were dispatched shortly after 6:30 p.m. to JC Snow Park located at 900 South and 300 East in St. George on a disorderly call.

Multiple witnesses called 911 and reported seeing a man punch a 7-year-old boy in the head, according to charging documents filed with the court.

Officers arrived and spoke to multiple bystanders who all provided a similar account of seeing the boy struck in the head by a man wearing blue jeans and a black backpack who reportedly rode away from the park on a green bicycle immediately after the alleged attack.

Officers also spoke to several children who were playing with the boy when the assault reportedly occurred. According to the report, the children said the suspect was spinning the children around, but when the boy asked the suspect to stop, the man pinned the child to the ground, pushed his hands against the boy’s neck and squeezed a pressure point causing him pain.

JC Snow Park located at 900 South and 300 East in St. George, Utah, date of photo not specified | Photo courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

Officers began canvassing the area in search of the suspect and found a man matching the description of the suspect riding north on 300 East. The officer activated the emergency lights and pulled behind the rider, who, the officer noted, “looked back at me and immediately began to ride away.” When the sirens were activated, the rider began pedaling faster away from the officer, according to the report.

The suspect turned east onto 600 South and reportedly continued into a parking garage. Just as the patrol vehicle was closing in, the report states, the suspect rode off the edge of the parking structure and fell more than 20 feet to the sidewalk below.

When the officer drove around to where the suspect should have landed, there was no one there. A search of the perimeter was initiated to contain the immediate area as officers set out to locate the suspect on foot.

Near the parking structure, officers found the bicycle matching the one the suspect was riding. Next to the bike was a black backpack similar to what the suspect had on him when he allegedly fled from police.

As officers circled the area the suspect was found hiding behind a small shed tucked against a wall in the middle of the plaza. The officer pointed his taser at the suspect and ordered him to stop, and according to the report, as the officer attempter to grab him, the suspect attempted to run and both fell to the ground. Police say the suspect broke free and ran north across 600 South into the medical center parking lot where he jumped a locked fence into a playground area.

Daniel Harley Simmons, 25, of St. George, Utah, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, March 4, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The officer approached the suspect with his taser drawn and ordered him to lie on the ground, to which the suspect complied, but not before he allegedly reached into his pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a marijuana pipe that he then threw over the fence, which was later recovered by police.

The suspect was handcuffed. During a search the report says the officer found a baggie full of multiple baggies that contained suspected marijuana in the man’s underwear. Officers also located additional marijuana-related items in the backpack he had with him.

The officer also notes in the report that he had recently learned from multiple sources the suspect had been “distributing marijuana and sells it to kids.”

The man was identified as 25-year-old Daniel Harley Simmons of St. George. Simmons was transported to St. George Regional Hospital for evaluation and treatment following his 20-foot drop from the parking structure.

At the hospital, Simmons reportedly told officers he was not willing to provide a statement without an attorney present, at which point all questioning ceased. Later, the officer wrote, the suspect made “an excited utterance,” and stated the “little kid” yelled a profanity at him, which is when he went up to the child and spun him around and then “put him down.”

Police say he changed his story later and said the child ran up to him and punched him and then he was pushed and he fell into the child.

Officers also spoke to the child’s parents at the park who reported they wanted charges filed against the suspect for the alleged assault on their child, the report states.

Simmons was cleared from the hospital and then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was booked on third-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance for the marijuana allegedly recovered during the search, due to the way in which the substance was packaged and that Simmons allegedly “committed this offense in a public park during operating hours with children present.”

He also faces five misdemeanors including one count each of child abuse involve physical injury, interfering with arresting officer, failing to stop at command of law enforcement, tampering with evidence and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The suspect was formally charged with the crimes on Monday and he remains in custody without bail, according to the order signed by District Judge Jeffery C. Wilcox who cited there is “clear and convincing evidence” that Simmons would pose a substantial danger to the community or would likely flee from the court’s jurisdiction if released.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!