What to Know
- Mourning has started for NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, with wakes being held at Saint Rosalie Roman Catholic Church in Hampton Bays
- Simonsen, 42, was killed after being hit by friendly fire during a robbery in a Queens cellphone store; two suspects have been charged
- The 19-year veteran grew up on Long Island and was widely admired and beloved both in his neighborhood and at work
The final farewell to NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen started Monday with a wake at a Long Island church, where police officers arrived en masse to mourn the beloved veteran and say goodbye.
Simonsen's wake was being held Monday and Tuesday evenings at Saint Rosalie Roman Catholic Church in Hampton Bays. His funeral will take place there on Wednesday morning.
The 19-year veteran died on Feb. 12 after being hit once in the chest by crossfire as he and six other officers fired 42 shots at suspect Christopher Ransom, who charged toward the entrance of a Queens store and mimicked pulling the trigger of a fake handgun, police said.
"There's a lot of pain being felt," said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association union on Monday. "You can see the pain etched on people's faces."
Simonsen is survived by his wife and mother. His organs were donated after his death.
"This fella was every bit his nickname, Smiles," said Palladino. "He had a very charismatic personality. Nothing short of a humanitarian."
An honor guard escorted Simonsen's body to the church for the wake. Family members were first to arrive, and then hundreds of officers and community members followed, Cardinal Timothy Dolan among them.
"Everybody's united in prayer for the slain officer, and everybody's united in bolstering and propping up the wife and family and friends," said Dolan after the wake. "That's what I experienced this evening."
Congressman Peter King called him "an exceptional police officer."
"He died doing what he loved doing," he said. "Unfortunately it turned out the way it did. But thank God we have men like Det. Simonsen."
As the wake continued Tuesday, partner Sgt. Matthew Gorman stopped by, as well as Sanny Liu, the widow of fallen NYPD officer Wenjian Liu, who was shot and killed in the line of duty along with partner Rafael Ramos in 2014.
"It's been four years we lost my husband, and police department provides great support to us. I thought I must be here for the families," she said. "I want them to know they're not alone. We'll always be with them."
Simonsen was known since childhood as "Smiles" for his bright, welcoming nature, colleagues and friends have said. He grew up on the east end of Long Island, and he and his current wife continued to live close by in Calverton - more than an hour's drive from the 102nd precinct where he worked his whole 19-year NYPD career.
"There wasn't a person in the 102 that didn't know him, from the cleaner to the command officer," NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said last week. "He was who you called if you had a problem. Wasn't just the cops who knew him well, the community, everyone knew him, that he's the cop you reached out to if a problem needed to be handled."
At Riverhead High School, he played football and baseball and was friends with everyone he met, childhood friend Melissa Weir said.
His neighbors in Calverton said he always opened his home to neighbors, inviting them to swim in his backyard pool during the summer and recently hosting a Super Bowl party.
"He was the most genuine, pure person I've ever met," Terrence LeGrady, a former NYPD partner of Simonsen, said last week.
High school classmates and other police colleagues remembered his unique ability to calm any situation "with just his presence, the way he spoke to people."
"The world lost, honest to God, one of the best," said LeGrady.
Two suspects in the robbery have been charged with murder in the death of Simonsen: the 27-year-old Ransom, who's accused of pointing a fake pistol at employees while demanding they put cash and phones in a black duffle bag, and Jagger Freeman, 25, accused of being the lookout, according to the complaint. Both men face additional charges including robbery and assault.