They called him “Smiles” and formed a blue line outside the NYPD’s 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill on Thursday, May 27, to honor their brother, Detective Brian Simonsen, who died in the line of duty in February 2019.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and Leanne Simonsen, Detective Simonsen’s wife, joined in the dedication ceremony for a new plaque at the station house in his memory.
“We never forget a good man,” de Blasio said. “We never forget someone who with every ounce of his being protected other people. Detective Brian Simonsen did things right. He lived right. He served right — a 19-year veteran, devoted in every way. When you hear stories of people, sometimes some of us, we only get to know them when they’re lost, but you learn what’s the current running through someone’s life — devotion, commitment, that’s who he was.”
Simonsen was tragically killed in a “friendly fire” incident while responding to a reported robbery at a nearby T-Mobile Store in Richmond Hill during a cold and rainy night on Feb. 12, 2019. A suspect named Christopher Ranson was packing a fake weapon and charged at the officers. Seven of the officers fired 42 shots from both sides of the store. Simonsen was struck in the chest and died while EMS transported him to the hospital.
“You can’t forget someone who did this much and sacrificed so much,” de Blasio said. “His family, his friends will remember deeply, but his second family, his NYPD family, his 102 Precinct family, feel a loss of a comrade in arms. He loved the people of this community. He loved serving shoulder-to-shoulder with his brothers and sisters in this department.”
Simonsen was representing the precinct’s rank-and-file during a union meeting on the day he was killed. The mayor said he could have “called it a day” and gone home, but he rushed to the T-Mobile Store when the call came in.
“He chose to serve and gave his life in that moment,” de Blasio said. “”He needs to be a part of the permanent memory of New York City. He needs to be an example to all New Yorkers of bravery, courage — commitment matters. That’s how we are all kept safe, because of people like Brian.”
In the aftermath of the tragic incident, the NYPD retrained its officers and distributed more than 500 new lightweight, bullet-resistant vests to detectives. Shea addressed Leanne Simonsen on the importance of her late husband’s legacy.
“For years to come, we will tell Brian’s story,” Shea said. “We talk about what he meant to this community, but, more importantly, what he meant to you, and what he meant to his family, and what he meant to his blue family, and how he lived life, and how he impacted people. I think of the tragic night two years ago in February, when we lost Brian, working on his own time, coming into work when he didn’t have to come to work. I think about if we could all live our life as Brian led his life, I think the world would be a better place.”
In his conclusion, the commissioner addressed the ranks of officers lined up along 118th Street.
“To all the members of the 102nd Precinct and wearing a blue uniform today, thank you for what you do each and every day,” Shea said. “God bless you. Everything that you do lives up to Brian’s memory and honors him in the sacrifice that you make every day. God bless you.”