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NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, killed by friendly fire in Queens, known as 'Smiles'

"He could make friends with perfect strangers ... Everybody knows Smiles." 

NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen was killed in Queens

NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen was killed in Queens on Tuesday, police said. At right, police stationed outside his Calverton house on Wednesday morning. Photo Credit: NYPD; James Carbone

NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, who was killed by friendly fire while responding to an armed robbery in Queens Tuesday night, was known as “Smiles” to his friends and neighbors. 

“He’s in my phone as Smiles,” said Rich Freeborn, a police officer with the Riverhead Police Department on Long Island, which is stationed near Simonsen’s home in Calverton.  

Though Simonsen, 42, worked for the NYPD, Riverhead officers described him as their own. He grew up with many of the town’s officers, played on the Police Benevolent Association's softball team in the early 2000s and attended the funerals of their fallen officers.

“He loved working for the NYPD, but he loved being part of Riverhead,” Riverhead Sgt. Jill Kubetz said. “It was part of Brian.”

Both officers described Simonsen as “the life of the party” who would chat up anyone. 

“He was literally friends with everybody,” Freeborn said. “He could make friends with perfect strangers ... Everybody knows Smiles.” 

Kubetz said his sense of humor and kindhearted personality drew others to him. 

“It was very easy to spend time with Brian and hang out with Brian,” she said. “He made everybody laugh.” 

Simonsen also was beloved in the Queens neighborhood where he served in the 102nd Precinct for his entire 19-year career. He was appointed to the NYPD in March 2000 and made detective in May 2008, an NYPD official said.

“Brian was a hero,” said Polo Savinon, 26, who often saw Simonsen at a bodega on the corner by the precinct. “When you’re able to communicate with your neighborhood and be an officer that has that human instinct, it takes away from that barrier that people have, communities have with law enforcement. You viewed him as a friend.”

“I’m going to miss him a lot,” he added. 

Rosa Muto, 45, who owns a pizza place by the precinct, said Simonsen would come in “quite often.” 

“He would even swing by to ask if we needed anything, coffee or whatever. He was a great guy,” she said. “Really humble, really just a good guy all around.” 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed flags to half-staff on all state government buildings for Simonsen, starting Thursday.

"This tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the risks the brave men and women in law enforcement face every day to keep us safe," Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday.

President Donald Trump, speaking at a national law enforcement conference in D.C., also offered his condolences to Simonsen and his family, mentioning him alongside another Milwaukee police officer killed on the job last year.

"We grieve the loss of these great heroes," Trump said in a speech to the Major County Sheriffs and Major Cities Chiefs Association Joint Conference. "Our hearts go out to their family and to everyone in the NYPD and Milwaukee law enforcement community."

Back on Long Island, Simonsen’s neighbors said he and his wife would frequently host backyard barbecues and pool parties for the neighborhood children.

“They let all of our kids go over there and hang out and swim,” said Dave Mosciatti, 42, who lives three houses away. “It was the center of the block.”

Mosciatti said Simonsen, a rabid Giants fan, had just hosted a neighborhood Super Bowl party.

“We’re all going to miss him a lot,” he said, adding that he knew Simonsen as “Smiles” as well.

Another neighbor, Randy Scott, 40, who lives around the block, was visibly shaken Wednesday morning when he learned that Simonsen was the cop who had been killed in Queens, repeatedly saying, “Wow.”

Scott and Simonsen would talk about work being done on their homes, Scott said. “He was a very nice guy,” Scott said.

Scott, a Yankees fan, would tease Simonsen, a Mets fan. “We used to trash-talk each other,” he said.

With Nicole Brown and Newsday staff

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