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2nd arrest in friendly fire shooting case of NYPD detective from LI

On Friday, Feb. 15, the Detectives’ Endowment Association talked about the $10,000 reward being offered for information pertaining to the attempted robbery that led to the friendly fire death of NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

This story was reported by Stefanie Dazio, Matthew Chayes, Anthony M. DeStefano and Randee Daddona. It was written by Dazio.

A second person reportedly has been arrested in connection with an attempted robbery that led to the friendly fire death of an NYPD detective from Long Island.

An official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press the man taken into custody Friday is suspected of being Christopher Ransom’s lookout Tuesday night at a Queens cellphone store. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The man was arrested in Queens, and his name wasn't immediately available. 

Ransom, of Brooklyn — charged in the friendly fire shooting that killed Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, of Calverton — was apparently trying to commit suicide by cop, according to one of his attorneys.

The attorney, Ken Finkelman of the Legal Aid Society, made the claim at Ransom's video arraignment Friday, where the 27-year-old was ordered held without bail and put on suicide watch. He allegedly brandished an imitation gun in the stickup of a T-Mobile store on Tuesday, aiming it at responding NYPD officers who then fired 42 shots.  

Simonsen was shot once in the chest by a responding officer and killed. His boss, Sgt. Matthew Gorman of Seaford, was shot once in the left leg and discharged from the hospital Thursday.

Ransom's arraignment was by video conference from a bed at NewYork Presbyterian-Queens in Flushing.

Before the second arrest Friday, two law enforcement sources said police were investigating whether a second suspect was a lookout or getaway driver for Ransom. The sources also said detectives were trying to determine whether the robbery of the T-Mobile store is linked to other robberies. 

“There’s somebody else that we’re looking for, I don’t want to go too deep into it,” Commissioner James O’Neill said before news of the second arrest. 

Queens Criminal Court Judge Bruna DiBiase oversaw proceedings for Ransom on Friday via the video link and ordered him to be put in protective custody. He is scheduled to have a court hearing Tuesday — the same day as Simonsen's wake in Hampton Bays.

Ransom faces up to 25 years to life in prison. He is charged, among other crimes, under two different murder statutes: one, felony murder, under the legal theory that Simonsen's death occurred during the commission of a felony, the robbery; and second, depraved indifference murder, under the theory that Ransom's conduct showed he had a "depraved indifference" to human life and created a grave risk of death to another person.

Ransom was shot eight times by NYPD officers and may suffer permanent damage to his leg, said one of his lawyers, Mihea Kim. She said he’s faced “multiple death threats” on his Facebook page.

He didn't enter a plea, and his attorneys' motion — that the top charges should be dismissed because Simonsen's death was not foreseeable because a "toy gun" was used and he was trying to kill himself, not police — was rejected by the judge.

Finkelman called his client's actions an “apparent effort at police suicide.” 

"It's pretty evident that something went terribly wrong," he said. "Over-charging Mr. Ransom, that's not going to solve the problem or get to the bottom of it."

Prosecutor Robert Ciesla said the fake gun "looks completely like a 9 mm pistol or a Glock pistol."

In a statement, the Legal Aid Society cautioned against attempts to "demonize" Ransom and said its attorneys haven't had proper access to their client — until just before the proceedings — or evidence.  

In charging documents, authorities allege that Ransom, wearing a dark hoodie and face mask and "armed with what appeared to be a pistol," pointed it at two T-Mobile employees Tuesday between 6 and 6:30 p.m. and demanded money from cash registers.  

Ransom then allegedly directed the employees to a back storage area and demanded money and merchandise from two safes, the documents state. The employees took cash from one safe and as they were emptying the second of iPhones, Ransom left that area and headed toward the main part of the store.

In the meantime, officers in the 102nd Precinct — including Simonsen and Gorman, who had been working a few blocks away on an unrelated robbery pattern — heard a call over the police radio reporting a commercial armed robbery. They responded and found the store seemingly empty, O’Neill said Friday on "The Joe Piscopo Show" on 970 AM radio.

“And they do what we ask them to do: They go in," O'Neill said.

Ransom began to exit through the store's front door, pointing the fake gun at the officers, who backtracked outside to take cover, the court papers say.

As he pointed the imitation weapon at them, the officers began to fire, officials said. Within roughly 11 seconds, Ransom, Simonsen and Gorman had been shot.

The Detectives’ Endowment Association is offering a $10,000 reward for information. Simonsen was the union delegate for his precinct. 

O'Neill said the incident will prompt a review of training procedures to “do our best to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The NYPD's Force Investigation Division is also looking into the incident, including why Simonsen and Gorman were not wearing required bullet-resistant vests.

Simonsen's services next week will include a wake Monday and Tuesday, as well as a funeral on Wednesday. All services will be held at St. Rosalie Roman Catholic Church in Hampton Bays. Interment will be at the Jamesport Cemetery.

His sister, Melissa, was buried there in June 1992, when the 13-year-old was struck by a car as she crossed the road, Newsday reported at the time. Her tombstone is inscribed, "Loving sister of Brian." Their father, Paul, was buried there less than six months later when he died at 44 years of age. 

Simonsen's family has requested that donations, in lieu of flowers, be sent to the Long Island-based Healing Haven Animal Foundation, a nonprofit that provides funding for animals that need emergency veterinary care.

A photo on the organization's website shows Simonsen on a couch with his cat, Meow, and his dog, Rosco. The dog greeted mourners at the detective's Calverton home Wednesday. 

Founder Dr. Lynda Loudon, a veterinarian who does house calls and emergency care at New York Veterinary Specialty Center in Farmingdale, said: "If any good can come out of it, like saving animals' lives he was so passionate about, it would be a blessing."

Loudon said the foundation is currently internet-based with a focus on Long Island patients. At least 14 donations of nearly $900 in total had been made by Friday afternoon, she said. "We're honored to be a part of keeping his memory alive," she said.

The Rev. Steve Maddaloni of St. Rosalie Roman Catholic Church said the church was chosen for the services because it seats about 750 people. Tens of thousands typically attend officer funerals.

Though an NYPD chaplain will preside over the Mass, Maddaloni — who had never met Simonsen — said he'd become familiar with the detective's life story from news reports. 

"He sounds like somebody I would have liked to have known," he said.

With AP

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