NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen

The community is invited to attend a memorial service Thursday for NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, the Jamesport native killed in the line of duty Feb. 12, 2019.

The Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation hosting the memorial, which which begin with a graveside prayer service at Jamesport Cemetery at 6 p.m. Thursday, the one-year anniversary of his interment there. The graveside service will be followed by a gathering at the Jamesport Fire Department headquarters.

“Come and tell stories, laughs, memories, as well as tears, as we remember a man none of us will ever forget,” the foundation said.

Food and beverages will be provided by Duffy’s Deli and the Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation.

The 19-year NYPD veteran was mortally wounded in a shootout after responding to a call about an armed robbery in progress at a mobile phone store in the Queens precinct he served since he first joined the police force. The Calverton resident was 42 years old.

Simonsen grew up in Jamesport and was a 1995 graduate of Riverhead High School. He joined the NYPD in 2000 after graduating from college.

He left behind his wife Leanne, his mother Linda and his grandfather Vernon Petersen.

His funeral last year drew thousands to the North Fork hamlet, where Main Road was lined with mourners as the funeral procession made its way to the cemetery, following a Mass at St. Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays.

The outpouring of love and sorrow was “a testament to the bond that is created the second you take the oath to protect and serve,” his longtime friend Melissa Peeker wrote in a letter to the town board last year, seeking the town to name South Jamesport Avenue in his honor.

It was also a testament to the individual “Smiles” was, she wrote. “He truly was one of a kind.”

The town board in April gave South Jamesport Avenue, the road Simonsen grew up on, the honorary designation “Det. Brian Simonsen Way.” The road was dedicated in his memory during a ceremony in June.

Det. Brian Simonsen and his wife Leanne. Courtesy photo

The Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to fund college scholarships and help NYPD families in need. The foundation was established by the detective’s widow, who said her husband’s death inspired her to be more like him in life. She has become an ardent proponent of organ donation in honor of her husband, who was an organ donor.

Leanne Simonsen spoke at a memorial service at a packed church in Queens on Wednesday, the anniversary of his death. The turnout “took my breath away,” she said from the pulpit at Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill. “But it was Brian.”

The officer is remembered by all who knew him as a man with a big personality and a big heart, who always had a smile for everyone — earning him his nickname.

“As unlucky as I was one year ago, I was the luckiest girl to have known him, to have him pick me. And I just had him for such a short time,” she said. “Never forget him never forget all of our heroes.”

‘Our hearts are broken’

Simonsen died in a tragic case of “friendly fire,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said last year.

Simonsen, a plainclothes member of an anti-crime squad from the 102nd Precinct in Queens, was working with his partner and Gorman, Sgt. Matthew Gorman, when they heard two 911 calls reporting an armed robbery in progress at nearby T-Mobile store on 120th Street in Richmond Hill.

Simonsen and Gorman were first on the scene. Weapons drawn, the officers entered the store, which appeared to be empty, O’Neill said. A suspect emerged from the back of the store, pointing what appeared to be a weapon, and advanced toward them, O’Neill said. The two officers fired at the suspect and retreated from the store, O’Neill said. As they did, patrol units that had arrived on the scene after the plainclothes detectives entered the store opened fire. Simonsen was killed and Gorman was injured.

Simonsen, the elected delegate of the 102nd detective squad, had a delegates meeting earlier in the day and was excused from work. But he worked his shift anyway because of a pattern crime investigation he was working on, NYPD Detectives Endowment Association president Michael Paladino said last year. He was a leader who led by example, Paladino said.

Christopher Ransom, 27, who was also injured in the shootout, was charged with murder under New York’s felony murder law, which allows prosecutors to press a murder charge where a death occurs in the commission of a crime. He was also charged with aggravated manslaughter, robbery, assault and menacing. A second man, Jagger Freeman, 25, who police said acted as a lookout in the robbery, was later arrested on charges of murder, robbery, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Both men have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail pending trial.

“Our hearts are broken again, because a career criminal put lives in jeopardy,” O’Neill said in a statement posted on Twitter the night of the tragedy. “[Simonsen] lost his life fighting crime and keeping safe all the people we serve. The sympathies of all New Yorkers are with his family and colleagues.”

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

SHARE
Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.