Richard Alan Simmons, a patrol sergeant in the San Diego Police Department's Eastern Division, died Saturday while playing one of his favorite sports: flag football.
Sgt. Simmons, 39, was engaged in a four-man flag tournament game in San Diego with many of his law enforcement colleagues when he began feeling weak, said police spokesman Dave Cohen.
"He stopped breathing, and CPR brought him back briefly, but he stopped breathing again en route to the hospital," said Cohen.
The cause of death was acute congestive heart failure, he said.
"It came as a shock. He was a healthy, very athletic guy who always had a smile on his face," said Cohen.
Cohen added, "He died the way he would have wanted to go. He really enjoyed the camaraderie of competition."
Sgt. Simmons excelled in softball and football. In 1987, he was named most valuable player in the Cop'r Bowl football game pitting San Diego police officers against county sheriff's deputies.
During his seven years in a police softball league, his team won the championship each year. And each year Sgt. Simmons played for a different team, Cohen said.
"Playing shortstop against him, I used to get whiplash watching the line drives off his bat," he said. "He worked hard and played hard."
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Sgt. Simmons graduated from San Diego High School and attended National University. He lived in El Cajon.
He joined the San Diego Police Department in 1979, working a variety of assignments before his promotion to sergeant in May 1988.
He was based at the Eastern Division's Kearny Mesa headquarters in recent years -- an assignment he chose to keep despite opportunities to move elsewhere.
"He liked the challenge and the people at Eastern Division," Cohen said. "The schedule afforded him an opportunity to spend maximum time with his family."
Sgt. Simmons is survived by his wife, Laura; a daughter, Hayley, 11; a son, Brett, 14; his father, Robert, and stepmother, Carol, of El Cajon; a sister, Katherine Simmons-Nichols of Brown Point, Wash.; and a brother, Charles of El Cajon.