What to Know
- Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, was killed after being hit by gunfire at the T-Mobile store at Atlantic Avenue and 120th Street in Richmond Hill
- The suspect, a 27-year-old career criminal, was shot multiple times and taken to a hospital, sources identified him as Christopher Ransom
- Simonsen died in what NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said appeared to be 'an absolutely tragic case of friendly fire'
The 27-year-old robbery suspect who sparked the police response that led to the friendly fire shooting death of an NYPD detective was a career criminal, known in his neighborhood for being a prankster who sought attention on social media.
Christopher Ransom has numerous previous arrests, including for criminal impersonation, larceny and fraud, police said. He was also wanted for robbing an RSK3 Wireless store on Rockaway Boulevard in Jamaica back on Jan. 19; the suspect in that case is seen on video holding up the store with a black gun before getting away with a couple of cellphones and about $800.
Det. Brian Simonsen and Sgt. Matthew Gorman were investigating a separate case in Richmond Hill Tuesday when they heard a call go out for a T-Mobile cellphone store being robbed. They rushed to the scene and entered the store, along with other responding officers; Ransom allegedly pointed at them with a fake gun, and advanced toward them, simulating pulling the trigger. Officers fired, shooting a total of 42 rounds in 11 seconds, and Simonsen was fatally shot in the chest.
"Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it is because of the actions of the suspect that Det. Simonsen is dead," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said Tuesday.
Gorman was shot in the leg and is in stable condition. Ransom was also hit and is at an area hospital in stable condition. He's been charged with second-degree murder, second-degree aggravated manslaughter, robbery, assault and menacing.
Ransom has been arrested more than two dozen times times, sources said. Ransom was charged in 2016 with impersonating a police officer after allegedly climbing over a gate and walking up to a desk at a Brooklyn police station while wearing a fake SWAT vest and police badge. Police records list his alias as "Detective." Ransom pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and was sentenced to 20 days in jail.
Four years earlier, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to jail time for pretending to be an intern to gain access to a judge's chambers and later violating an order to stay away by flashing a photocopied identification in an attempt to gain access to the courthouse.
Ransom sued the city over a 2015 disorderly conduct arrest, alleging officers approached him on a Brooklyn street corner for no reason, cornered him in a food store with guns drawn and took him to a psychiatric ward against his will.
The charges against Ransom were later dismissed, and Ransom dropped the lawsuit in 2016. A message was left for Ransom's lawyer in the lawsuit.
Friends of Ransom said he wasn't known for being violent but as an eccentric attention seeker, often posting videos of his stunts on Facebook and YouTube. He once swooped into a Brooklyn police station, wearing only underwear and a cape.
A bodega worker in his neighborhood, who asked not to be identified, told News 4, "Most kids drop out of high school. He went on, with everything going on around him, to high school, to finish college."
Comedian Ray DeJon said he invited Ransom to do stand-up at a couple of his shows. He had no idea about his extensive criminal history.
"I'm shocked," he said.
Facebook posts also indicate that Ransom may have been an actor; photos of him were published in 2015 where he appears to be on a set and he mentions appearing on TV dramas like "Shades of Blue." Another 2015 post shows a picture of a paycheck for work he allegedly did on NBC's "The Blacklist."
The I-Team also found on Ransom's Facebook page a 2016 photo of an apparent employment letter by the NYPD's Police Athletic League, Inc. addressed to him welcoming him to the "largest independent youth development agency."
Back in January, Ransom wrote on Facebook, "It took me 27 years to realize that I'm not a job type of dude. "
Police are continuing to investigate Ransom and are asking anyone with information on him to contact them at NYPDCrimestoppers.com.