They came by the hundreds to honor NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, filing into the church for the first wake of the fallen officer in a long line that included comrades from his Queens precinct and the region, neighbors of his Calverton family's home, politicians and religious leaders.
“There’s just a real, thick, beautiful, cohesive spirit of solidarity that everybody’s united in prayer for the slain officer and everybody’s united in bolstering and propping up the wife and the family and the friends,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan outside the wake at the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays.
The cardinal described a deeply emotional scene inside the church, especially among fellow police officers. “To see their tears and the lump in their throats, it causes the same for all of us,” Dolan said.
Mourners wore green ribbons, symbolizing the NYPD flag that was draped over Simonsen's coffin, pinned to their uniforms and coat lapels. Blue bows were tied to poles and mailboxes in Hampton Bays. Flower displays filled the church, including a giant gold detective shield arrangement with Simonsen’s badge number, 3877.
Simonsen, 42, was shot and killed by friendly fire while responding to a robbery attempt Tuesday at a T-Mobile store in Richmond Hill, police say.
The suspect, Christopher Ransom, 27, brandished a realistic-looking imitation gun toward responding officers, who fired 42 shots in about 11 seconds, the NYPD said. Ransom, who was shot eight times, his attorneys said, was charged with murder, robbery, assault, aggravated manslaughter and menacing.
A second suspect, Jagger Freeman, 25, of Queens, has been charged with felony murder and other offenses.
Simonsen's supervisor, Sgt. Matthew Gorman of Seaford, was with him and was shot in the left leg.
Monday evening, Gorman arrived at the wake in a wheelchair.
Simonsen, known as “Smiles” to his friends, grew up in South Jamesport and lived in Calverton for the last decade.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), said officers filled the church. “Cops, detectives of all ranks were there and again, there was just great love for him. It’s not often you see cops get emotional or show real feeling. My father was a cop, I know what I’m talking about. It was there tonight. It was a real, real genuine feeling for him,” he said.
Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD's Detectives’ Endowment Association, said outside the church that Simonsen, who was the union delegate for his precinct, lived up to his nickname and was “nothing short of a humanitarian.”
Up near the altar by the coffin was a digital portrait of Simonsen done by Jonny Castro, a forensic artist for the Philadelphia Police Department and presented to Simonsen’s wife Leanne and his mother Linda.
Castro has created about 400 such portraits of fallen first responders and service-members since March 2016. He said he tries to go to as many services as possible and donates his work with Brothers Before Others, a nonprofit that aids the families of fallen officers.
“I’m honored that this is actually going to be hanging in their living room,” he said. "They definitely started crying when they saw it,” Castro said of the detective’s family.
The wake for Simonsen continues Tuesday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. in the church.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in the church, with burial to follow in Jamesport Cemetery.
Simonsen’s family has asked that any donations, in lieu of flowers, go to the Healing Haven Animal Foundation. More than $5,300 had been raised in his name by the time Monday’s wake began.