A good Samaritan in Queens

Who drove the surviving sergeant to the hospital after a friendly fire shooting in Richmond Hill?
Who drove the surviving sergeant to the hospital after a friendly fire shooting in Richmond Hill? Photo Credit: Li Yakira Cohen

It wasn’t an ambulance that took Sgt. Matthew Gorman to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center Tuesday night, after he’d been shot in the leg by friendly fire. 

He wasn’t transported to a trauma team by colleagues in a marked police car either, as Det. Brian Simonsen was. The trauma team wasn’t able to save the detective, shot in the chest. 

No: Gorman was the lucky one, if you call a person lucky who, more than eight years into his NYPD career, hits this nightmare situation. His colleague dead, he himself in a hospital bed with a hole in his leg the size of a dime, one visitor said.

Gorman made it to the hospital, and he’d survived: brought by a good Samaritan in a civilian car.

It was just a passerby who stopped and brought Gorman to the hospital, according to NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill’s somber remarks at the hospital Tuesday night.

What good can be found after the chaotic scene Tuesday, when officers responded to a 911 call of what appeared to be an armed robbery perhaps involving hostages at a T-Mobile in Richmond Hill? 

The gun seems to have been fake, Gorman and Simonsen were hit by friendly fire, and now Simonsen, a 42-year-old husband and 19-year veteran, is dead. 

Maybe the only glimmer is from the good Samaritan who helped Gorman, a Nassau County resident assigned to the 102nd Precinct.

“He’s healing,” says Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins, who visited Gorman in the hospital.

“He’s quiet,” Mullins said. Gorman had lost a member of his squad. “There’s not a lot you can say.”

What can be asked: Who helped Gorman get to the hospital?

The NYPD has not identified the driver. Detective union head Mike Palladino thought it may have been an auxiliary police officer who happened to be in the neighborhood and helped. Mullins had heard it was someone in a black pickup truck. Maybe an off-duty officer. Even some eyewitnesses reported only chaos on Atlantic Avenue, cars squealing over the median and escaping the gunfire in the opposite direction. 

“I would love to know who it is,” Mullins says.

Back in the summer, Mullins’ union started a somewhat controversial program, offering a reward of $500 to people who assist police officers who need help rather than just watching or using their phones to video the scene.

This was criticized as vigilante justice by criminal justice reform groups, and even the NYPD expressed concern about people getting in harm’s way for a reward. Another addition to community/police relation annals. The Sergeants Benevolent Association and its Twitter account has made few friends with police-reform groups, to say the least, and the association has been slamming O’Neill of late, too, after he and Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the outcome when Sgt. Hugh Barry fatally shot Deborah Danner in the Bronx in 2016.

No one has ever gotten in touch to claim the $500 reward, Mullins says.  

And maybe the person who helped Gorman won’t either, because he or she doesn’t want to be identified due to their job or personal preference. Maybe he or she didn’t even think the act was a big deal. Maybe New Yorkers will never know who the person is, just like we know little about the EMTs or nurses or doctors or patrol cops whose job it is to make sense of chaotic scenes like Tuesday night in Richmond Hill.