Family members, friends and thousands of NYPD, Nassau and Suffolk officers, from beat cops to top brass gathered in Long Island Wednesday to say a final farewell to Detective Brian Simonsen, a 19-year police veteran who was killed last week by friendly fire while responding to a Queens robbery.
Simonsen, along with seven other officers responded to an armed robbery call at a a T-Mobile store in Queens last Tuesday. He was shot in the chest and killed by friendly fire, along with Sergeant Matthew Gorman, who was struck in the left leg. The responding officers fired 42 shots in 11 seconds, a stray bullet struck Simonsen in the chest and he was rushed to Jamaica Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
Police say the suspect Christopher Ransom brandished a realistic-looking imitation pistol and pointed it at responding officers in the holdup. He was indicted on charges of murder and other offenses. A second suspect, Jagger Freeman acted as a lookout was charged with felony murder and a dozen other charges Sunday
The grey skies and sub-freezing temperatures mirrored the somber atmosphere at the funeral held at the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays. An emotional NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill remembered Detective Brian Simonsen as a man of courage and determination.
“He spent his entire law enforcement career in the 102, you don’t see that too much anymore,” O’Neill said, as his voice choked with emotion. “The 102 was a sprawling community, which virtually everyone who lives and works there knew him, or had seen him. They liked him and, most importantly, they respected him. He fell in love with his community and the community fell in love with him. He had to have loved it, as the mayor said, 70 miles each way— that’s dedication.”
O’Neill added that Simonsen “made tough decisions others are unwilling or unable to do.”
“We will never match the sacrifice made by Brian. But we can try to match his sense of service. We cannot match his courage, but we can strive to match his devotion.”
He also made it clear that none of the other seven officers involved in the shooting were responsible for the detective’s death.
“All the police officers at that tragic shooting carry this grief with them for the rest of their lives,” O’Neill said. “But let me tell you something: those cops responded to a call for help. They didn’t hesitate, and they are not to blame. The only two people responsible for Brian’s death, the only ones, are the two career criminals.”
O’Neill promoted Simonsen posthumously to Detective, First Grade, prompting the congregation to stand in prolonged applause.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also delivered a eulogy at the funeral.
“Today, New York City is heartbroken. We have a tremendous sense of loss in our community. A city so large, and yet we’re all united right now in profound grief because we have lost such a good man,” de Blasio said. “Our hearts go out to the Simonsen family. We can only begin to imagine your pain but we feel at one with you, and we all should feel at one with our men and women who are suffering this loss.”
“I ask every New Yorker, when you see a police officer today, offer them condolences as you would if they lost a family member, because in fact they have,” de Blasio added.
Patrolman Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said “don’t forget” the sacrifices made by fallen heroes like Simonsen.
“When you go home, realize you lie in safety because a police officer was willing to lay down his life,” Lynch said.
Among those in attendance for the funeral was Lisa Tuozzolo, widow of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty two years ago.
“Because the men and women in blue, both here in New York City and across the country, have showed so much love and support for my family when I lost my husband, Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, two years ago. It is the utmost importance and respect that we come and support another line of duty family. They need all of the love and care wrapped around them right now,” Tuozzolo said.
Simonsen is the first NYPD officer shot and killed in the line of duty in 2019.
To help support Detective Simonsen’s family, Blue Lives Matter NYC has set up a fallen officer fund where all proceeds donated will go directly to the Simonsen’s family. Click here to donate.