The robbery suspect in last week's friendly fire killing of an NYPD detective from Long Island has been indicted on charges of murder and other offenses, his defense attorney and law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Christopher Ransom, 27, of Brooklyn remained in NewYork Presbyterian-Queens Hospital in Flushing as his defense attorney appeared in Queens state Supreme Court to learn from prosecutors that Ransom had been indicted in connection with the death of Det. Brian Simonsen, 42, of Calverton, stemming from an abortive Feb. 12 robbery of a T-Mobile store in Richmond Hill.
Ransom's attorney, Legal Aid Society lawyer Kenneth Finkelman, said news of the indictment didn’t surprise him but that he and his client thought there was a miscarriage of justice.
“We are very disappointed, we feel he is being overcharged and scapegoated,” Finkelman told Newsday.
In a statement, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said his office filed a notice of grand jury action in the case. He did not elaborate further.
Police have said that as Ransom attempted to rob the T-Mobile store, Simonsen and another officer, Sgt. Matthew Gorman of Seaford, responded to the location with several uniformed officers. Investigators said Ransom was holding an imitation handgun as he tried to exit by the front of the store. It was then that seven officers fired 42 shots, one of which fatally struck Simonsen in the chest. Gorman was wounded in his leg and Ransom was hit about eight times, according to investigators.
News of Ransom's indictment came the day before Simonsen’s departmental funeral Wednesday in Hampton Bays, a ceremony expected to draw tens of thousands of police officers and other law enforcement officials.
The full indictment, which is believed to contain charges of felony and depraved indifference murder, manslaughter and robbery, among other charges, won’t be released until Ransom’s arraignment on March 12, officials said. The charges in the indictment also address the wounding of Gorman.
“Something very terrible happened here,” Finkelman said of Simonsen's death, but he added that by hitting Ransom with murder charges, officials were using the homicide case as a smoke screen to avoid scrutiny of police action in the incident.
After Simonsen was killed, Commissioner James O’Neill said his death was a case of friendly fire and an internal investigation was underway to determine what happened in the 11 seconds cops fired a total of 42 shots.
Because of what he said was a close relationship between the Police Benevolent Association and the Queens district attorney’s office, Finkelman said he planned to ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
The PBA would not comment and the district attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Finkelman said given what he knows of Simonsen’s character, the detective would not want Ransom to spend the rest of his life in prison. Ransom is to undergo additional surgery Wednesday, the lawyer said.
Jagger Freeman, 25, from Queens, was also arrested and charged with felony murder, robbery and other offenses for his alleged role as the lookout in the T-Mobile store robbery. He is next due in court Friday.
Also Tuesday, a state appellate court ruled that police body camera recordings generally — of which there were a number made during the shooting that took Simonsen’s life — can be made public.
An NYPD offfcial said the department would be reviewing a backlog of public Freedom of Information Law requests and releasing videos “pursuant to FOIL and consistent with the law.”