“Be a Brian.”
It’s a challenge that Leanne Simonsen posed to family, friends and NYPD gathered in Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill, Queens to remember her husband, Detective Brian Simonsen, who on Feb. 12, 2019 was shot and killed by friendly fire while responding to reports of an armed robbery at a neighboring T-Mobile store.
Feb. 12, hundreds of uniformed officers joined students from Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrsion and Mayor Bill De Blasio for a memorial Mass remembering Detective Simonsen’s service to the Queens community.
During the Mass, colleagues and loved ones shared remembrances of the detective, all of whom described Brian “Smiles” Simonsen as a man who showed and embraced love for others.
“To show the same love and respect that Brian did every day to his family, to his fellow officers, to the people he served…he lived that way. We should live that way,” said De Blasio.
Detective Simonsen would drive 70 miles from his home to the 102 precinct, where he served just blocks away from Holy Child Jesus, a parish that often has those who serve on their minds.
“I am often praying for him, and for all of the members of the NYPD,” explained Fr. Christopher Heanue, the church’s administrator, whose brother is also a police officer. “We pray here at our parish a very special prayer: the Saint Michael the Archangel prayer… Saint Michael the Archangel is the patron saint of police officers.”
Together, attendees of the memorial Mass recited the prayer led by Catholic academy students.
Msgr. Robert J. Romano, Assistant Chief Chaplain for the NYPD and concelebrant of the Mass, hoped that by attending the service, children of the parish would see how officers are “more than people who just wear a uniform.”
“They’re dads and moms just like theirs who try to bring a family together, raise a family,” he said. “I always use the imagery of the family of blood and the family of blue. When we put them together, it’s one family and we support those who have been killed in the line of duty. We support their families and they are never forgotten.”
“We try to connect that unity and keep that relationship between our parish, the people of our parish, and praying for the police officers,” Fr. Heanue explained. “And so when one member of our community suffers, we all suffer.”
After Detective Simonsen death, his widow Leanne Simonsen established a memorial foundation in her late husband’s honor: The Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation, which helps provide scholarships and funds for animal rescues, in the hopes that others can be moved and inspired to live like him.