Corey Ballentine returns to Topeka for teammate’s accused killer’s hearing

Local News

Corey Ballentine (left) takes the stand during the Sept. 9th hearing. Accused killer Francisco Mendez sits in the courtroom, and Dwane Simmons’ father can be seen sitting behind him in the gallery.

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A former Washburn football player returned to Topeka Monday morning to testify in the preliminary hearing for the accused killer of his best friend and teammate.

Corey Ballentine took the witness stand on Monday to recount the night he and Dwane Simmons were shot, while 18-year-old defendant Francisco Mendez sat feet away. Navarro Simmons, the father of murdered Dwane could be seen in the gallery behind Mendez.

Ballentine described a car with two people inside driving up slowly and talking to Ballentine’s friend group.

“The driver asked if we smoke, we said no,” Ballentine said. “The guy in the backseat said ‘What’s your name?’ Somebody out of my friend group answered and said “Don’t worry about that.’ They pulled off and they started shooting.”

He and Mendez both made appearances in the Shawnee County Courthouse for the preliminary hearing. Mendez faces seven charges including first-degree premeditated murder; first-degree premeditated attempted murder; and five counts of aggravated robbery.

Ballentine recalled hearing around 20 gunshots, including the one that hit him as he ran away from the car.

“They got faster,” Ballentine said. “Halfway running to the corner, like from where we were standing to where the corner was, I got hit halfway through. And then I kept running through it – I felt it but I just kept running.”

Ballentine was shot in the backside, while Simmons was killed around 1 a.m. outside a house party. The April 28 shooting happened hours after Ballentine learned the New York Giants drafted him for their team.

Following the preliminary hearing, the judge will determine if there is enough evidence to take Mendez to trial on the charges.

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