Diocesan News

Veteran Queens Detective Killed by ‘Friendly Fire’

By Emily Drooby

NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen died in the line of duty Feb. 12, by ‘friendly fire’ while responding to reports of an armed robbery at a T-Mobile store. (Photo courtesy of New York City Police Department)

On a recent morning, Polo Savinon was among many Queens residents attending a memorial vigil for New York City Police Detective Brian Simonsen, who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 12.

“It’s hard to know that you see somebody every day who’s actually humble who has that down to earth indistinct to know they’re not going to be here tomorrow,” he said.

Savinon works at the deli just around the corner from the 102nd precinct in Richmond Hill. He says Det. Simonsen was a regular fixture in the shop and beloved in the community.

“Brian took the time out of his day just to acknowledge your presence just to make sure you’re doing good. You could be a trouble maker in the neighborhood. He was still going to say hi to you, still going to make sure you’re okay,” he said.

The morning after the shooting, Savinon and his co-workers closed down the deli for an hour-long prayer vigil to honor the 42-year-old officer.

“Everybody said a prayer, here and there, but it was mainly a moment of silence for him because I feel like he at least deserved that,” he said.

Det. Simonsen was shot in the line of duty while responding to reports of an armed robbery at a T-Mobile store near 120th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Richmond Hill. Officers shot at the suspect, Christopher Ransom, who had a fake gun in his hand. During the shooting, Det. Simonsen was hit by friendly fire.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said, “Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it is because of the actions of the suspect, that Detective Simonsen is dead.”

The suspect was shot several times, but is expected to survive. Det. Simonsen was rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, but died of his wounds.

“This is an absolute tragedy, the worst outcome any police officer or family of a police officer can ever imagine,” Commissioner O’Neill said. “The sympathy and prayers of the entire NYC police department are with the family of Det. Simonsen tonight.”

One of Their Own

Msgr. David Cassato, who serves as the deputy chief chaplains for the NYPD, was at that hospital to help Det. Simonsen’s fellow officers and family cope with the loss.

“Big police officers all breaking down in tears – that’s one of their own, that’s one of their own, part of the family, it was a very, very, very sad moment,” the monsignor said.

But he explained, prayer has a lot of power during a moment of loss.

“We prayed together, the Our Father, and you could see there was a peace come over [everyone], and the power of prayer, I think, is the sense of God being with us at this moment, God helping us to walk through this moment,” he said.