New York City Detective Killed By ‘friendly Fire’ During Queens Robbery
[Read our latest story on the “friendly fire” killing of the New York City police detective.]
A New York City police detective was killed on Tuesday evening after he was shot by fellow officers in a confused eruption of gunfire as they confronted a robbery suspect inside a cellphone store in Queens.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill called the death of the detective an “absolutely tragic case of friendly fire,” and said it was later discovered the suspect was carrying a fake gun. A sergeant was also wounded in the police fusillade.
The shooting took place at about 6:15 p.m. at a T-Mobile store in the Richmond Hill neighborhood, not far from Kennedy International Airport.
The detective and the sergeant, both experienced members of the 102nd Precinct detective squad, were responding to a report of an armed man inside the store, which is the last of a series of storefronts on the north side of Atlantic Avenue near 120th Street.
Wearing civilian clothes, the two officers entered the shop and saw a man advancing on them and pointing what appeared to be a handgun, Mr. O’Neill said. They opened fire on the man and quickly retreated out of the store, where other officers had arrived.
That was when the detective, Brian Simonsen, 42, a 19-year veteran, was shot in the chest, the commissioner said. He was the first New York City police officer to be killed in the line of duty since July 2017.
“It’s a very difficult and painful night for our city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, after visiting the family of the slain detective. “We lost a very good man.”
The officers were rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where the sergeant, Matthew Gorman, 34, underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to his thigh and was expected to recover.
It was unclear how many officers were at the scene and how many fired their weapons.
In addition to the two officers, the robber was also hit and was taken to New York Hospital Queens with several gunshot wounds. The police did not immediately release his name, but Mr. O’Neill described him as a “27-year-old career criminal.”
Traffic was backed up for blocks as the police surrounded the shop after the shooting. Inside, crime scene investigators could be seen combing for evidence.
Detectives fanned out along nearby streets searching for witnesses and security cameras.
Sahdil Sahdil, 73, who has run a nearby hardware store on 94th Avenue for more than two decades, said he heard a barrage of popping sounds.
“I told my wife, that thing sounds like a gun!” he said.
The chaos of the shooting can be heard unfolding in a frenetic police radio broadcast, according to a recording that was posted online by Broadcastify. The call came in for an armed gunman inside the T-Mobile store who had taken two employees into the back room. Arriving officers were told not to use sirens.
A barrage of gunfire can be heard as an officer screamed at a dispatcher, “Shots fired, shots fired!”
Within minutes, there were panicked calls for an ambulance because a “M.O.S.” — short for member of service — had been shot. The suspect, at that point, was still inside the store, according to the recording.
“He’s in the store, he’s going to the back,” one officer said, apparently referring to the shooter. Then an officer yelled for colleagues to take cover.
A sergeant — presumably Sergeant Gorman — told a dispatcher, “Be advised, I’m shot, the perp’s still at the location.” Responding officers then told dispatchers to “Rush a bus,” or hurry an ambulance to the scene.
Several neighbors said they were shocked to hear about an armed robbery on the usually peaceful block, let alone a police shooting.
“We wouldn’t expect that in this neighborhood,” said Mala Singh, 48, who has lived in the area for eight years. “It’s very sad.”
The last New York City police officer shot and killed in the line of duty was Miosotis Familia, a 12-year veteran of the force who was shot in July 2017 as she sat in an R.V.-style police command post in the Bronx. She was posthumously promoted to the rank of detective.
Fatal friendly fire incidents are rare for the New York police. The last one occurred in 2009, when Officer Omar J. Edwards was killed by a fellow police officer who mistook him for a armed criminal.
Shortly after 11 p.m., dozens of officers lined up in formation outside the emergency room as Detective Simonsen’s body was loaded into a medical examiner’s van. As the freezing rain whipped down, the massed ranks saluted in unison as their colleague’s body was driven off into the downpour.