NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen was responding to a robbery in Queens when he was shot and killed by friendly fire.
At Wednesday’s memorial mass, he was remembered for his devotion and service to the Department, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
Simonsen was a big guy with a big personality, and he left a lasting impression on everyone who knew him, as evidenced by all the people who gathered to honor him on the one-year anniversary of his death.
There wasn’t a single empty seat inside Holy Child Jesus Church in the Richmond Hill section of Queens. Simonsen’s is wife, Leanne, was overwhelmed.
“Oh my God. You all took my breath away the minute I walked in this church. I never expected this turnout. But … it was Brian,” she said.
On Feb. 12, 2019, Det. Simonsen, a 19-year veteran of the NYPD, was killed by friendly fire while responding to a robbery at a T-Mobile store. It was supposed to be his day off.
“It’s been 365 days since this tragedy and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him,” Sgt. James Wheeler said. “And my wife continues to see me shed tears for him, far more often than I would like her to.”
“As unlucky as I was one year ago, I was the luckiest girl to have known him, to have him pick me. And I just had him for such a short time, but it was so worth it,” Leanne added.
Leanne said her husband’s death has inspired her to be more like him in life. She has become a major proponent of organ donation, inspired by her husband who was an organ donor. She started a foundation in his name, awarding college scholarships and helping NYPD families in need.
“All I want to do is make Brian proud,” she said. “Never forget him. Never forget all of our heroes.”
Det. Simonsen was not wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot in the chest. After his death, the NYPD looked into a less bulky vest that detectives would be more willing to wear.
Simonsen’s wife helped hand-deliver the new vests in December.