Man convicted in shooting that killed 1, wounded NFL player

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A jury on Friday convicted a man of killing a college football player in Kansas and wounding another player who recovered and now plays for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL.

Francisco “Franky” Mendez, 21, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the April 28, 2019, death of Dwane Simmons, 23, a cornerback for Washburn University in Topeka.

Mendez was also convicted on four counts of attempted murder for shooting at Washburn players Corey Ballentine, Channon Ross, Kevin Neal Jr. and J.J. Letcher Jr., wounding Ballentine, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The shooting occurred hours after Ballentine was drafted by the New York Giants. He recovered and now plays for the Atlanta Falcons. The other three men were not injured.

Testimony at the trial indicated Simmons and Ballentine were shot as they stood outside a Topeka house where they had attended a party to celebrate Ballentine being drafted. A car driven by Mendez pulled up and asked the group if they had any marijuana.

When the players said they didn’t, another person in the car asked the players’ names and one player said something along the lines of, ‘Don’t worry about all that,’” witnesses said.

Mendez pulled the car forward and then stopped, and its occupants got out and fired at least 19 shots at the players, witnesses said. The car had been stolen in a carjacking earlier in the evening.

Simmons died at the scene. The other players ran as the shooters walked toward them, a witness said.

Deputy Shawnee County District Attorney Charles Kitt said the shooting occurred because Mendez and the three other people in the car felt they had been disrespected by the football players.

The other occupants of the car have not been identified and no one else has been charged in the case, which remains under investigation.

Mendez was also convicted on seven counts of aggravated robbery linked to crimes committed in the days before and after Simmons was killed.

A sentencing date hasn’t been set.

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