The Colt 1911 Target air pistol looks much like a semi-automatic handgun that one would see a villain holding in an action movie. When pointed at anyone, including a cop in the middle of an armed robbery in Queens, it seems difficult to tell whether its capable of firing harmful BBs or deadly bullets.
Police said that Christopher Ransom allegedly brandished one of these Colt air pistols when he robbed the T-Mobile store on 120th Street in Richmond Hill on Feb. 12 — and pointed it at officers after they arrived on scene.
According to Chief Kevin Maloney of the NYPD Force Investigation Division, Ransom allegedly pretended to fire the weapon at the officers, which prompted the responding cops to respond and discharge their guns.
Seven officers fired 42 shots, striking Ransom eight times — but also hitting Detective Brian Simonsen twice, resulting in his death. Simonsen’s partner, Sergeant Matthew Gorman, was also hit by shots and is recovering from his injuries.
A day after the deadly friendly fire incident, the NYPD released Ransom’s photo as well as an image of the Colt air pistol, recovered from the crime scene, which they say the suspect allegedly pretended to fire at the responding officers.
Ransom, who remains hospitalized in stable condition, faces charges including second-degree murder, second-degree aggravated manslaughter, first- and second-degree robbery, assault and menacing.
At a Feb. 12 press conference at Jamaica Hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill stated that there was no question who was responsible for the deadly friendly fire episode.
“Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it’s because of the actions of the suspect that Detective Simonsen is dead,” O’Neill stated.
During a Feb. 13 press conference at One Police Plaza in Manhattan, Maloney outlined the details of what happened, based on the results obtained so far in the investigation.
Law enforcement agents determined that Ransom walked into the T-Mobile store at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 120th Street at about 6:09 p.m. on Feb. 12. At around that time, 911 received a call from a witness who described a suspect fitting Ransom’s description putting on a mask and walking into the shop; the suspect also appeared to be carrying a gun.
Maloney said that Ransom allegedly forced two T-Mobile workers into a rear office, then began stealing valuables.
Officers from the 102nd Precinct responded to store along with Detective Simonsen and Sergeant Gorman, both members of the 102nd Precinct Detective Squad. They were in the area conducting surveillance as part of an unrelated investigation, according to Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who noted that Simonsen was working anyway despite having taken the day off.
When the officers entered the shop, Maloney noted, Ransom spotted them and walked out of the rear office. That’s when he pointed the imitation gun at the officers, prompting them to walk outside.
Maloney said Ransom allegedly charged at the officers as he himself exited the store, then began simulating firing the weapon, leading to other cops opening actual fire.
The motive for why Ransom allegedly did this remains unclear. Michael Paladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association, speculated in the New York Post that the suspect may have been trying to commit “suicide-by-cop.”
“[Ransom] confronted cops with an imitation gun during the commission of a robbery, which indicates to me he wanted to commit ‘suicide by cop,'” Paladino told the Post. “The irony is that he lived and the cop died.”
The investigation remains active, and the NYPD continues to analyze various information, including officer bodycam video, to flesh out the details of the incident. They also ask anyone with information about the robbery or Ransom to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.