Seven members of the NYPD fired a total of 42 rounds in the chaotic response to an attempted robbery that claimed the life of Detective Brian Simonsen by friendly-fire on Tuesday, officials said.
The officers, including Simonsen and his partner Sgt. Matthew Gorman—who suffered a leg wound in the incident—opened fire on the suspect after he came out of the T-Mobile store in Richmond, Queens waving an imitation pistol, according to authorities. Both Gorman and Simonsen were in plainclothes when they arrived at the scene, followed shortly after by six uniformed officers.
"We don't know who shot who at this point," said Chief of Department Terence Monahan during a Wednesday afternoon briefing on the investigation. "It was a really chaotic scene."
The suspect, 27-year-old Christopher Ransom, was also shot, and is expected to survive. He now faces charges of second-degree murder and second-degree aggravated manslaughter.
The imitation pistol that polices say was brandished by Ransom (DCPI)
Ransom has at least eight previous arrests for minor crimes, including impersonating a police officer in 2016. His childhood friend, Frank Rios, told the Times that the suspect always had a fascination with law enforcement, but couldn't become a cop “on account of being autistic."
In a bizarre incident five years, Ransom allegedly forged a letter to gain access to a court internship at Brooklyn Supreme Court, and was later caught sneaking into restricted areas of the court room. His Facebook features photos of him dressed as a police officer and FBI agent, and posing behind the bench as a judge. Another friend described Ransom as a social media prankster, who enjoyed provoking a reaction from police officers.
Simonsen, 42, had been on the police force for 19 years, according to Police Commissioner James O'Neill, and resided in Calverton, Long Island. “He had a lot of nieces and nephews and a lot of friends’ children that called him [Uncle Brian],” Terrence LeGrady, his former partner and childhood friend, told the Daily News. “He was the person who showed up at your house if your kid was missing a baseball mitt—and he would buy a brand new mitt for the kid."
“We would need a football stadium to [hold] the actual number of friends he had," LeGrady added.
There will be a wake for Simonsen on Long Island on Monday and Tuesday of next week, followed by a funeral on Wednesday. Details here.
On Wednesday, the city's medical examiner ruled Simonsen's death a homicide, determining the cause was a gunshot wound to the chest. Five of the officers at the scene were wearing body cameras at the time of the shooting, police said. That footage is currently under review.
The last police officer to be killed in the line of duty was Officer Miosotis Familia, 48, who was fatally shot while sitting in a mobile command center in the Bronx in July 2017. In December, a police officer in Staten Island was injured by a fellow officer's friendly fire while responding to a domestic disturbance; the suspect was killed in the encounter.
Additional reporting by Jen Chung.