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Four dozen shots fired by police in friendly fire fusillade that killed Queens detective

2019-02-13

Police respond after two police officers were shot on Atlantic Avenue and 120th Street in Queens, New York on Tuesday, February 12, 2018. (Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News)

Cops unloaded a fusillade of roughly 50 shots during a Queens cellphone store holdup where a decorated NYPD detective was killed by friendly fire, police sources said Wednesday.

At least eight police officers, including slain Detective Brian Simonsen, were at the T-Mobile phone store where suspect Christopher Ransom was inside — armed with what turned out to be a fake handgun, sources said.

The smell of gunpowder filled the February night from the volume of shots fired, according to witnesses at the scene. The officers were responding to a 911 call of a gunman holding store workers hostage.

Dozens of evidence markers remained Wednesday in the crime scene area surrounding the Richmond Hill store, with a line of police officers scouring the area for additional evidence.

The detective’s unmarked black Ford, pocked with gunshots, remained parked outside the store. A constellation of bullet holes in the glass bore witness to the gunfire.

Gov. Cuomo directed all state government buildings to fly their flags at half-staff from Thursday through the detective’s burial.

NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen (pictured) was shot and killed during the armed robbery. Officer Matthew Gorden was also shot and injured while on duty Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 in Queens, NY.
NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen (pictured) was shot and killed during the armed robbery. Officer Matthew Gorden was also shot and injured while on duty Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 in Queens, NY. (NYPD)

Simonsen spent his entire 19-year NYPD career working in the 102nd Precinct in Queens, where he was viewed as a cut above the average cop by local residents.

“This is a man who was doing his job, and he was happy with his job, and his job was to make sure that the street was safe,” said lifelong neighborhood resident Polo Savinon, 26.

“You lose somebody like that, you lost more than just an officer,” he continued. “It really is a shame.”

During his long career, Simonsen logged 569 arrests – including 446 felony busts. He also earned five Excellent Police Duty Medals and one Meritorious Police Duty Medal.

He was working on a local robbery pattern when killed, and could have skipped his shift after attending a union delegates meeting in the morning.

Mayor de Blasio recounted speaking with the detective’s wife and mother at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital after the shooting.

“It’s a particularly painful responsibility to speak with family who have just lost their loved one in service to our city,” he recounted. “And you can imagine how devastated they were …. The bravery it takes to go into an unknown situation like that is extraordinary, and he gave his life for us.”

Sgt. Matthew Gorman, who was shot in the hip Wednesday evening, remained in the Queens hospital. Family members at his Seaford, L.I., home declined to speak with reporters, and a local police car was parked outside.

Gorman, who responded to the call with Simonsen, could possibly be released from the hospital at some point Wednesday.

“He seems like a nice guy, I see him walking his dog,” said Long Island neighbor Tom Sofia, 84. “It’s a big relief to know he is going to be released.”

The married Simonsen joined the NYPD in March of 2000, and landed at the 102nd Precinct just seven months later. He was assigned to the precinct Detective Squad in November 2006, and promoted to detective in May of 2008.

The New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund will provide the Simonsen family with $25,000 to cover their immediate expenses — including the slain detective’s funeral.

“We are heartbroken for his family, for the NYPD, and for our entire city,” said Lauren Profeta, executive director of the fund. “It is a tremendous loss. We vow to honor Detective Simonsen by helping those he loved the most — his family."

With Jillian Jorgensen, Thomas Tracy and Wesley Parnell