By Reuven Blau, THE CITY
This story was originally published on April 5, 2019 by THE CITY.
Christopher Ransom was lying in a hospital bed when a nurse delivered the bad news with a whisper in his ear.
One of the eight cops he allegedly charged while masked and waving a fake gun on a Queens street two days earlier was killed by friendly fire, the nurse told him.
And now Ransom was going to be charged with murder in the Feb. 12 death of Det. Brian Simonsen outside a Richmond Hill T-Mobile store.
In a recent phone interview with THE CITY, Ransom, 27, said he was trying to commit “suicide by cop” when he allegedly tried to rob the cellphone shop.
“I just wanted to end my life,” Ransom said. “I didn’t want to go to jail. I promised myself I wouldn’t go back.”
He described a long struggle with mental illness and a string of non-violent crimes that included barging into a Brooklyn police precinct wearing a “Super Police” badge.
“I had no intention to hurt anyone,” Ransom recalled during a call from Bellevue Hospital. “I want to tell [the Simonsen family] how sorry I am.”
Detectives’ Endowment Association President Michael Palladino dismissed Ransom’s apology. “‘Sorry’ doesn’t quite cut it,” he said. “It’s time for Mr. Ransom to take responsibility. He has engaged in a lifetime of crime and bizarre behavior.”
Ransom and his alleged accomplice, Jagger Freeman, should never have been on the streets, Palladino said, noting their criminal histories: “Our detective would be alive today if these individuals were where they should have been – in prison.”
Fake Pistol Leads to Real Gunfire
Police who responded to the 6 p.m. robbery call said Ransom waved the fake black Colt pistol at officers and jerked it back as if experiencing kickback after firing shots.
“You wouldn’t believe how real it looked,” said a police source who saw a video of the incident.
Seven cops fired 42 shots in 11 seconds, according to the NYPD.
Simonsen, 42, was fatally struck in the chest by a colleague’s bullet, according to authorities. His partner, Sgt. Matthew Gorman, was shot in the hip, also by so-called friendly fire.
Ransom, of Brooklyn, was hit eight times, including in one testicle, which had to be removed, he said.
During the phone call, which was arranged by another inmate in the hospital, Ransom told THE CITY he was adopted as an infant and grew up in Crown Heights with four brothers.
Ransom said his biological mother died when he was 10. He said he never met his father.
At one point, Ransom said, he was briefly hospitalized in the Kings County “psych ward” when he was about 17. He described a lifelong battle with mental illness, but didn’t know his diagnosis.
“I was going to counseling on and off since I was a child,” he said.
His Legal Aid lawyer and family declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal case.
His account to THE CITY also differed from what he later told the Daily News, which was that the robbery was a prank gone awry.
Police had arrested him 25 times over the past nine years, records show. The cases ranged from impersonating a police officer to shoplifting, records show. None of the charges involved a violent crime or the use of a deadly weapon, according to reports.
A History of Erratic Behavior
Some of the cases indicate a level of disconnect from reality.
In 2012, he pretended to be a college intern to spend time with a Brooklyn judge, and was convicted of criminal trespassing.
Four years later, he was busted with bogus police attire, including a “Super Police” badge, as he tried to enter staff areas inside the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights. He was jailed for 20 days after being convicted of impersonating a police officer.
Not all his bizarre behavior resulted in criminal charges.
In 2016, Ransom posted a video on YouTube of himself walking into a Brooklyn precinct wearing only underwear and a cape, and thanking officers for their service.
His criminal record made it had for him to find work, he said.
Ransom recalled taking a job assisting people with disabilities and one as a shift supervisor at a homeless shelter. He says he got booted from the shelter gig after just a few weeks, when a supervisor discovered he lied about his work experience on his resume.
The lack of work made it hard to pay basic bills and forced him to “bounce around” between several apartments where he rented rooms, he said.
“I needed money,” he said, referring to the alleged robbery.
Still, he dreamed of starting his own film production company and said he was one semester away from graduating college with a degree in communications.
He now faces felony murder, robbery, assault and menacing charges. Police say Freeman, 25, acted as his lookout; he also has been charged with felony murder.
Canada and the United Kingdom have banned similar statutes, and multiple states, including Hawaii and Kentucky, have eliminated the charge. Critics contend the charge unfairly punishes criminal accomplices.
In New York and elsewhere, people can be charged with murder even when they don’t wield a weapon. They are considered responsible if the death occurs while they are committing another serious crime.
Most recently, California lawmakers voted to limit the charge by exempting people who had little to do with the original crime and no intent to kill. That law is being challenged in court.
As for Simonsen, thousands of friends, family members and fellow officers gathered Feb. 20 to say their final goodbye. He was remembered as a “cop’s cop” who always looked out for others.
“Brian was a true friend who never wanted anything in return,” his former partner, Ricky Water, told the mourners inside St. Rosalie’s Catholic Church.
Simonsen is survived by his wife, Leanne, and mother, Linda.
In Bellevue Hospital, Ransom sent a message to Simonsen’s family: “I wish it didn’t happen. I pray for their strength and healing process.”
This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.