Christopher Ransom was identified as the “career criminal” accused of trying to rob a cell phone store with a fake weapon, provoking a law enforcement response that led to the friendly fire death of veteran NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen.
Simonsen was on duty in Queens at the time he was shot; he was a married father and 19-year NYPD veteran who was close to retirement. Christopher Ransom’s name was not released by the NYPD as of the morning of February 13, 2019, but it was reported by publications such as the New York Post via sources.
“Multiple law enforcement sources tell @jonathan4ny man shot by police in attempted robbery at #Queens cell phone store is Christopher Ransom,” reported Steven Bognar, a managing editor for WNBC-TV.
“Our hearts are broken again, because a career criminal put lives in jeopardy. Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, was a 19-year-veteran of the #NYPD. He lost his life fighting crime & keeping safe all the people we serve. The sympathies of all New Yorkers are with his family & colleagues,” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
The shooting unfolded on February 12, 2019 in a chaotic scene that left Simonsen and Sergeant Matthew Gorman wounded, shattered glass on the sidewalk, and one witness hiding behind a tree. Gorman is expected to survive. Initial reports that there might have been two suspects do not appear to be accurate.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A ‘Furious Gun Battle’ Erupted at the T-Mobile Store After the Suspect Showed Up With an Imitation Gun, Reports Say
The shooting death was the first NYPD on-duty death by gunfire since 2017, with the last being Miosotis Familia. However, according to Pix 11, it was the second time a New York police officer was shot in three months. There was another friendly fire shooting in December 2018.
In the case of Detective Simonsen, authorities say he died responding to what they characterized as an armed robbery. However, things quickly became chaotic and confusing.
“This appears to be an absolute tragic case of friendly fire,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a news conference. “…Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it is because of the action of the suspect that Det. Simonsen is dead. This is an absolute tragedy.” He described a chaotic scene as patrol officers arrived while Simonsen and Gorman were leaving the store after a confrontation with the suspect.
“We lost a very good man,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding that Simonsen spent his career “protecting this city.” He said he spent time with Simonsen’s mother and wife, describing that moment as an extremely painful one. “We told them…the people of New York City would be there for them as long as they lived.”
A 911 call came in about such, and Simonsen and the sergeant responded to the T-Mobile store, according to News 1. When the officers arrived, a suspect was “holed up” inside, Daily News reports. There were two suspects at the scene, news reports said.
2. The Suspect Was Described as a ‘Career Criminal’ & Was Also Shot
The suspect, “a 27-year-old resident and career criminal, was shot multiple times…he is listed in stable condition,” said the police commissioner the evening of the tragedy.
Commissioner O’Neill said in the press conference that two 911 callers had reported a robbery in progress at the T-Mobile cell phone store on 120th Street in Queens. The suspect was described as a “male armed with a firearm” and two employees were forced at gunpoint to the back of the store, according to a caller.
The sergeant and Simonsen pulled up just as patrol units were arriving. They were in the area working on an unrelated case and “didn’t hesitate,” the commissioner said. The officers didn’t see anyone inside, so they entered the store, and saw a man fitting the suspect description allegedly advance toward them with a gun. The officers discharged their weapons as the suspect advanced toward them, the commissioner said, and started to leave the store. At that time, Simonsen was shot, according to O’Neill. He was transported in a police squad car to the hospital.
Multiple officers fired multiple rounds, O’Neill said, pledging that there would be an investigation. However, as for the suspect, “recovered by police at the scene was an imitation firearm,” the commissioner said.
The sergeant was shot in the leg and a passerby transported him to the hospital, where he is in stable condition.
According to PIX 11, the store’s doors were “blown out by the gunfire and glass fragments littered the sidewalk” after the shooting.
3. Brian Simonsen Was a Veteran Detective & Married Father Who Handled High-Profile Cases
As a detective, Brian Simonsen drew some high-profile cases during his service on the NYPD.
Simonsen was mentioned in a 2011 blog post by the Child Injury Lawyer Network about a Queens babysitter who was accused of falling asleep while drinking Nyquil, at which point a child fell in a mop bucket and drowned.
“NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen testified that (Kristal) Kahn showed no emotion was neither sad nor frantic when she gave her written statement a mere 2 hours after the death,” the post reads.
Tragically, according to News 1, the detective would have retired in a year. He was taken to the hospital, where he died. He was promoted to detective in 2008. He was married and left behind two children, and he didn’t even have to be at work that day, but he showed up anyway, authorities said.
4. Witnesses Described Multiple Gunshots & a Limping Officer
Witnesses saw a frightening scene. Despite the friendly fire finding, some witnesses were confused who had fired, and a radio transmission captured some of the frantic reports from the scene.
“I think the suspect shot first. Then the police started opening fire,” said Jason Parodi, who was walking nearby, to The New York Post. “At least 11 – 12 shots that I heard.”
He added to the Post: “Actually I think I see one officer, he was shot. He was limping to his car. I was scared, I didn’t know what direction the bullets were coming in so I hid behind that tree by the park.”
“Shots fired! Shots fired!” an officer said on radio transmissions, according to Daily News. “Central, he’s in the store. He’s going to the back… He’s still in the store, central. He’s still in the store.”
5. Tributes for Detective Simonsen Flooded Social Media
Tributes to Brian Simonsen began to spread on social media, as the mayor rushed to the hospital.
“Our thoughts & prayers are with the members of the @nypd, family, & friends of Det. Brian Simonsen who was shot & killed this evening, in Queens, while responding to an armed robbery call. We also wish a speedy recovery to Sgt. Matthew Gorman who was also shot. Fidelis Ad Mortem,” wrote the Metropolitan Fire Association on Twitter.
“#NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen, 102 Pct Detective Squad, was murdered tonight during a shootout in Queens. We pray for the families and everyone touched by this tragic event. Sergeant Matthew Gorman was also shot and is in stable condition. God bless and watch over our heroes,” wrote Brotherhood NYC.
The New York Times reported that the two officers were “plainclothes members of an anti-crime squad.”
A worker who was in the area of the shooting described the massive law enforcement response.
“I heard 10 to 15 shots and then, one minute, police all come,” a nearby worker told The New York Post. “It was loud, too much — like boom.”
“We are forever indebted to the brave NYPD detective who was killed in Queens tonight and the sergeant who was wounded. May God bless them and their families,” Sen. Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter.