What to Know
- Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, was killed by friendly fire while responding to a robbery in Queens Tuesday night
- Known as "Smiles" since childhood, friends and colleagues said he was a bright, welcoming presence everywhere he went
- Neighbors on his Calverton block were devastated Wednesday, crying as they spoke of him and flying their flags at half-staff
The family of the NYPD veteran detective killed in the line of duty Tuesday evening will donate his organs to try to help other people, a source close to the family says, continuing a legacy of service and heroism for which he became so widely admired.
Funeral services have also been set for Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, at church on Long Island next Wednesday. He's survived by his wife and mother; his sister died some time ago, and then his father after that.
Simonsen was killed by friendly fire while responding to a robbery in Queens Tuesday. Police officials said 42 rounds were fired by seven officers in 11 seconds.
Simonsen had been excused from work on Tuesday after attending a detectives union meeting, but he decided to go back to his precinct to continue investigating a robbery pattern he was working on, Detectives' Endowment Association president Michael Palladino said.
It was yet another case of how Simonsen was "the kind of fellow that led by example, led by his actions," and had leadership skills recognized by fellow detectives, Palladino said.
A 19-year veteran of the NYPD, Simonsen was known since childhood as "Smiles" for his bright, welcoming nature, colleagues and friends said. He grew up on the east end of Long Island, and and he and his 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," said NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan. "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.
"Everyone is in complete shock. Everyone is feeling this," Weir said. "When you have somebody like Brian, it's really hitting everybody. There are people all over the place hurting."
Tears fell from neighbor Harry Goldbach's eyes as he faced the loss of his good friend.
"I heard it on the news and I said, 'I hope that ain't Brian,'" he said.
Simonsen had called Goldbach just hours before he was shot during the robbery in Queens, asking his neighbor to walk his dog.
The detective had lived in the Calverton neighborhood for about eight years. He was divorced before marrying his current wife.
Friend Dave Mosciatti said Simonsen always opened his home to neighbors. Simonsen had recently hosted a Super Bowl party at his home, and always invited people to swim in his backyard pool during the summer, they said.
"My kids are really torn up about it," said Mosciatti. "My son went to school crying."
A blue ribbon was tied to a tree outside Simonsen's home Wednesday as a stream of family and friends stopped to pay their respects. Neighbors were flying their flags at half-staff.
"He was the most genuine, pure person I've ever met," said Terrence LeGrady, a former NYPD partner of Simonsen.
High school classmate 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.
Simonsen was killed by friendly fire while responding to the cellphone store robbery in Queens Tuesday. Police officials said officers had fired a total of 42 rounds in 11 seconds at the scene.
In a letter to members of the NYPD, O'Neill called Simonsen a "great investigator held in very high esteem by his coworkers."
"This absolute tragedy highlights the incredibly brave actions our members perform each day in the name of driving down violence and disorder in every neighborhood," he wrote. "And I hope that it helps all New Yorkers understand just how difficult it is to be an NYPD officer."
The police commissioner also called the support the department received after Simonsen's death "overwhelming."
"Please remember that what you do every day for the people of this city matters a great deal," he wrote. "And for that, I am humbled by you, I am infinitely proud of you, and I sincerely thank you."
Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday requested that the flags on all state government buildings be lowered to half-staff in memory of Simonsen, saying he was "deeply saddened" by his death.
"This tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the risks that brave men and women in law enforcement face every day to keep us safe," he said in a statement.
Simonsen made the news in 2009 after he investigated the death of an 11-month old boy who drowned in a bucket of water at an unlicensed daycare while the woman running it was passed out on NyQuil. Simonsen testified at Kristal Khan's trial, which ended in her conviction, that she "didn't show any emotion" when he questioned her two hours after the incident.
A wake for Simonsen is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Saint Rosalie Roman Catholic Church in Hampton Bays. The funeral will be held at the same church on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m.