Queens, NY – New York Police Detective Brian Simonsen was killed by friendly fire while responding to an armed robbery on Thursday night.
The incident occurred at a Richmond Hill T-Mobile store just before 6:15 p.m., after 42-year-old Det. Simonsen and 34-year-old Sergeant Matthew Gorman responded to a report that an armed suspect came into the store and forced two employees into a back room at gunpoint, The New York Times reported.
The 102nd Precinct detective squad officers were in plainclothes when they arrived at the Atlantic Avenue storefront, and immediately encountered the armed suspect inside the store.
The suspect, “27-year-old career criminal” Christopher Ransom, then pointed his handgun at the officers, and charged towards them, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said, according to the New York Post.
The veteran officers opened fire on the suspect, and retreated out of the store.
But as they exited, both officers were shot by other officers who had arrived at the scene.
A total of 40 rounds were fired by eight officers, a police source told the New York Post.
Det. Simonsen was hit in the chest, while Sgt. Gorman was struck in the thigh, The New York Times reported.
“At this hour, this appears to be an absolute tragic case of friendly fire," Commissioner O’Neill said during the Thursday night press conference.
Det. Simonsen, a 19-year veteran of the force, was rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Care, where he was pronounced dead, The New York Times reported.
A motorist passing by the scene of the shooting stopped to help Sgt. Gorman, and transported him to the same hospital, Commissioner O’Neill said.
The sergeant was taken into surgery, and is expected to recover from his wounds. He has been with the department for eight years.
Ransom, who was shot several times, was transported to a hospital in Queens, and is listed in stable condition, Commissioner O’Neill said.
Investigators later determined that the weapon Ransom was carrying was a replica handgun.
“It’s a very difficult and painful night for our city,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters outside the hospital. “We lost a very good man.”
Dozens of officers stood in the freezing rain outside the emergency room just after 11 p.m., and saluted as the body of Det. Simonsen was transported to the medical examiner’s office, The New York Times reported.
“Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it is because of the actions of the suspect that Detective Simonsen is dead,” Commissioner O’Neill said, according to the New York Post. “Tonight highlights the incredibly brave actions NYPD members perform each day in the name of fighting crime and keeping people safe.”
“This is an absolute tragedy,” the commissioner continued. “The worst outcome any police officer – or family of a police officer – could ever imagine.”
“The sympathies and prayers of the entire New York City Police Department are with the family and colleagues of Detective Simonsen tonight. I hope that all New Yorkers understand how difficult a job that of an NYPD officer is.”
Det. Simonsen leaves behind his wife and mother, de Blasio said.
“Commissioner O’Neill and I just spent time with Detective Simonsen’s family. And it was heartbreaking, just heartbreaking. The shock that they’re feeling is so painful to see,” the mayor continued. “We told the Simonsen family that the New York City Police Department will be with them. New York City will be with them.”
Detectives’ Endowment Association President Michael Palladino said that Det. Simonsen was a valued leader who “led by example.”
He noted that Det. Simonsen was elected by his peers to be the delegate for the 102nd Precinct detective squad.
The delegates had met just that morning, which technically excused Det. Simonsen from having to work his regular shift on Tuesday night, Palladino explained.
“He didn’t have to be at work tonight,” he said. “But he felt compelled to go to the delegates meeting, ignore the excusal, and go to work.”
“Brian was a good man. He was a good detective,” Palladino concluded.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of New York Police Detective Brian Simonsen, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Detective Brian Simonsen, your life mattered.