Manjit Kumar had just returned to his shop on the corner of Lefferts and Atlantic Avenue in Queens when the shooting started at 6:10 on Tuesday evening. Between 12 and 15 gunshots were fired, he estimates. Pop. Pop, pop, pop. Then silence before the next round rang out.
The gunfire was part of the police response to reports of an armed robbery in progress at a T-Mobile store, just down the street on 120th in Richmond Hill. The shots Kumar heard resulted in the death of Detective Brian Simonsen of the 102nd Precinct. He was 42 years old and had 19 years in the department, according to the NYPD. Another officer, Sgt. Matthew Gorman, was shot in the leg.
According to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, in a statement, two 911 calls came in at just after 6 p.m. about a robbery at the T-Mobile store. After police entered the store they saw a man approaching them from the back of the store pointing at them with what appeared to be a handgun. As they retreated they fired.
Preliminary reports indicate that Dt. Simonsen’s death was the result of “friendly fire” from a fellow officer. Police fired 42 times during the incident, according to NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan. Investigators also recovered an “imitation firearm” at the scene. Police arrested Christopher Ransom, 27, who has an extensive arrest record, according to the police.
Kumar was back at work today, but the north end of Atlantic Avenue was closed to traffic as the NYPD investigation continued. Businesses on either side of the store where the shooting occurred were shuttered. At least one neighborhood family was keeping their daughter home, saying she was too scared to go to school, Kumar said.
Across the street a group of men watched the police activity from inside a BP station. Some officers directed traffic while others paced between the crime scene and a mobile crime lab parked outside.
Shootings are a rare occurrence in this quiet neighborhood with a large South Asian community. With 0.44 reported incidents per 1,000 residents, the 102nd Precinct has one of the lowest crime rates in New York City.
The entrance of the 102nd Precinct office was draped in black and purple bunting on Wednesday, with a small memorial of flowers, candles, and American flags nearby.
Inside the department, uniformed officers and plainclothes NYPD employees embraced each other, while others waited, stone-faced, for news. Department policy prohibits officers from commenting, but one woman was overheard announcing, “I’m just gonna go stand outside the office and cry,” as a colleague embraced her.