A 19-year veteran of the New York Police Department was fatally shot during an attempted robbery Tuesday in what authorities said was an incident of friendly fire.
Detective Brian Simonsen, 42, was shot in the chest and succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital after he and his sergeant responded to reports of a robbery at a T-Mobile cell phone store in Queens, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at a press conference.
Simonsen and his sergeant, who has spent the last eight and a half years with the NYPD, were working on an unrelated case when the reports came through, but entered the store after callers claimed to have seen a suspect toting a handgun.
“With the suspect advancing toward them, the officers discharged their weapons and retreated out of the store,” O’Neill said. “That was when Det. Simonsen was shot.”
Authorities later determined the suspect’s weapon was an imitation firearm.
Simonsen’s sergeant, who was not identified, was shot one time in the leg, and is in stable condition at a local hospital.
O’Neill did not identify the suspect by name, but he described him as a 27-year-old “career criminal.” The suspect was shot multiple times and is in stable condition at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital.
Neighbor Arwin Singh told the New York Daily News he heard between 15 and 20 shots throughout the ordeal.
“I thought, ‘Who plays with firecrackers in the rain?’” he said. “It’s crazy. The store has been robbed before but nothing as bad as this.”
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Simonsen, who was assigned to the 102 Precinct, leaves behind a wife and two children.
His death marks the first New York City officer killed in the line of duty since July 2017.
“Make no mistake about it — friendly fire aside, it’s because of the actions of the suspect that Detective Simonsen is dead,” O’Neill said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the bravery of Simonsen and his fellow officers.
“I want to just note how difficult it is for our men and women in uniform to go into a situation where people’s lives are in danger, where there’s someone with a weapon ready to recklessly use it at any moment,” he said. “[They] go in selflessly to protect others. That bravery and resolve is something we all need to understand.”
De Blasio said Wednesday all flags in the city would be lowered to half-staff to honor the slain officer.
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