Leanne Simonsen, (wearing blue scarf), widow of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen, follows behind the casket after funeral services, at Saint Rosalie Roman Catholic Church, in Hampton Bays, L.I., on Wednesday. (David Wexler for New York Daily News)
Through the tears and the heartbreak, a portrait emerged Wednesday of slain NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen — a cop’s cop. A friend in need. A devoted husband.
And a good man gone too soon.
The jam-packed Long Island funeral Mass for the police veteran recounted a life amazing even in death: The 19-year NYPD officer’s organs were donated to save others after his death from friendly fire eight days ago.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, his voice thick with emotion, remembered the oft-decorated officer as diligent, determined and dedicated to his work.
“We will never match the sacrifice made by Brian,” said O’Neill to the officer’s family, friends and fellow cops inside St. Rosalie’s Catholic Church in Hampton Bays. “But we can try to match his sense of service.
“We cannot match his courage, but we can strive to match his devotion.”
The mourners inside rose and applauded as O’Neill announced Simonsen’s posthumous promotion to first-grade detective from third-grade. Simonsen, 42, was accidentally killed by another cop’s bullet as they responded to a Feb. 12 armed robbery in Queens.
On a day of deep sadness, Simonsen’s former NYPD partner in the 102nd Precinct heaped praise on the detective nicknamed “Smiles” for his relentlessly upbeat outlook.
“Brian was a true friend who never wanted anything in return,” said a teary Ricky Waters, who partnered with Simonsen for five years. “Working with him was the best. He always had a smile on his face, and never complained about anything.”
That included his daily 140-mile round-trip commute from Calverton, L.I., to Queens.
A single framed photo of the detective stood on the altar eight days after his death. His devastated wife, Leanne, and his mother, Linda, arrived together just prior to the funeral Mass, with police officers on either side offering gentle support to the grieving duo.
The mother wept as she walked down the church steps behind her son’s casket, carried out by an NYPD honor guard. Leanne, who married Simonsen in 2013 after they met in Las Vegas, dropped her head in dismay as she received the green-and-white striped NYPD flag that had covered her husband’s coffin.
She clutched the neatly-folded flag to her chest with her right hand, her fingers already wrapped around a crucifix on a morning when the slate gray skies mirrored the somber mood.
Sgt. Matthew Gorman, wounded in the 42-bullet NYPD fusillade that killed Simonsen, arrived for the funeral in a wheelchair. He was among those inside the church for the final blessing of the casket before Simonsen was taken away for burial.
O’Neill made it clear that none of the other seven officers involved in the shooting were responsible for the detective’s death.
“All the police officers at that tragic shooting carry this grief with them for the rest of their lives,” said the commissioner. “But let me tell you something: Those cops responded to a call for help. They didn’t hesitate, and they are not to blame.
“The only two people responsible, the only two, are the career criminals who decided to go into that store and commit an armed robbery.”
Mayor de Blasio, in his eulogy, shared how the slain officer’s organs were donated to save others after the tragedy outside a T-Mobile store in Richmond Hill.
“I think we can all agree we have lost one of our very best,” said the mayor, who attended with wife Chirlane McCray. “And we’ve been given an example to live up to. To the family, I say thank you for making him the man he was. And we are all better because Brian walked among us.”
NYPD chaplain Msgr. David Cassato told the crowd that a piece of Simonsen lived on within each person gathered inside the church.
“You don’t say ‘how much I love Brian’ in the past tense,” said Cassato. “And you can still touch Brian with that beautiful, beautiful gift of love. We hurt. We are in pain. But he lives in that kingdom of light, joy and peace.
“My brothers and sisters, a simple prayer: Brian, rest in God’s peace, amen.”
Hundreds of NYPD officers line Monatauk Highway during the funeral services. (David Wexler for New York Daily News)
The overflow crowd spilled into the streets around the church, with a live feed of the funeral Mass played for the thousands left standing in the February cold. Among those attending the service was NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald, son of the late Detective Steven McDonald.
Hundreds of officers traveled via a special Long Island Rail Road train departing from Jamaica, Queens. By the time the train left the Babylon station, a police officer in dress blues filled almost every seat of the double-decker express. At Patchogue, the train was standing-room only — and not a lot of room was left.
A conductor estimated the five-car train, with seats for about 650, carried hundreds more standing. The clack of ticket punching was conspicuously absent from a train packed with riders on a morbid morning commute to Hampton Bays.
The quaint suburban Suffolk County hamlet was lined with police and emergency sawhorses on both sides of its two-lane main drag.
Blue ribbons festooned the light poles along Montauk Highway leading to the church. A massive American flag hung above the roadway approaching the church, passing streets like Squireville Road and, almost prophetically, Cemetery Lane
The site of the funeral is not Simonsen’s parish, but was selected because of its 750-person capacity. Officers from Simonsen’s precinct were among the first allowed inside.
His cousin Sean Peterson, a Suffolk County police officer, recalled Simonsen’s difficult teen years when his sister was hit by a car and killed and his dad committed suicide,.
“Those devastating tragedies would have broken many a man, but not Brian,” he said. “Brian, we love and miss you. You are truly one of New York’s finest.”