This has been quite a turbulent year for the NYPD. Despite the monthly reports of crime stats trickling down (also up), shooting incidents involving cops and suspects (notably people with mental health conditions) have seen a significant rise. Also seeing a rise is a disturbing trend of the excessive amount of shots being fired by cops, even when they are facing only one perpetrator.
On February 11th, 2019 in the early evening at about 6 p.m., an emergency call was placed about an armed robbery at a cellphone store in Richmond Hill. Christopher Ransom was hauling merchandise while holding up workers at gunpoint, Detective Brian Simonson and his partner Sgt. Matthew Gorman along with six other cops arrived immediately to the crime scene. The cops went into the store and Ransom came out and pointed his gun at them, giving Simonson, Gorman and the cops no other recourse but to shoot in self-defense. In a span of 11 seconds, 42 shots were fired by the cops to take the crook down when he came running outside with intent to shoot. During the fusillade of bullets fired by 7 of the cops (one cop abstained from shooting), the suspect got hit with 8 bullets and survived. Simonsen got off two but was shot in the chest by his fellow cops and later died. Another stray bullet hit Sgt. Gorman in Detective Simonsen wasn’t wearing a bullet-proof vest at the time because it was his day off and he was at a delegate meeting shortly before the robbery happened, but dutifully responded because there had been a spree of other cellphone store robberies around South Queens, especially that very store on 120 st and Atlantic Ave according to residents there. Incidentally, Ransom was involved in a cellphone store robbery in St. Albans four days earlier.
Simonson and Gorman’s backup shot a total of 29 bullets compared to their 13. Simonson only got 2 bullets off before he went down. The cops shot 42 times to take down one criminal that wound up taking the life of a fellow cop. To make this horrendous death worse, it turned out that the Ransom’s gun was a prop.
But the actual issue about this tragedy was not only the excessive discharge of gunfire but the over-deployment of police backup to the robbery. Made apparent by the diagram below by the NY Daily News:
Going by the incident, the situation by the detective and his partner along with two other uniformed cops was under control. But from the vantage point of the backup outside and where they were positioned, it sounds like they panicked and emptied their clips, even after Ransom didn’t shoot when he drew his weapon as they presumed it was jammed. Given the amount of rounds they shot and how lousy the aim was of those four cops outside, it’s a wonder where the other bullets went and given the time of day when it occurred, it’s amazing no innocent bystanders around there or in the vicinity were hit with a stray bullet. (Good thing it was raining out that night).
In their overzealous and stupid effort to take down a criminal stupidly looking to duel with a phalanx of cops with a fake gun, they took the life of Detective Simonson instead. They shot down one of their own in a totally preventable death that could have been avoided if they showed proper restraint or even good judgement. But for some incomprehensible reason this shooting incident and the death of a decorated and beloved police detective did not get the national attention that is usually warranted of other excessive force shootings by police that have made repeated headline news and viral attention especially when the victims are Black or Hispanic.
So what made the mass shooting death of Simonson different? Maybe it’s because of how it was described by the NYPD and the stenographers of the corporate local news media from the newspapers to television to radio and on the social network platforms by their blue check accounts; as a case of “friendly fire”.
Now this may be the first time that a local police force has used that term to determine a cop being shot down. Because the origin of “friendly fire” was used by the U.S. Defense Department to describe soldiers being shot by their fellow troops during the two invasions of Iraq in 1990 and in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000’s (most notoriously in the cause of death of Pat Tillman and repeated constantly by the likes of then Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) . For the NYPD to utilize that term to deflect responsibility and accountability for the amount of gunfire dispensed and local news stenographing of the narrative put forth by them suggests that Simonson, Gorman and their trigger finger itchy backup were entering a warzone like some jungle in Vietnam or a dirty bomb planted street in Fallujah instead of a sleepy commercial district in Richmond Hill as they were heading to a corner cellphone store.
This is what the warzone they entered looks like, hardly an area where you need tanks or other military grade vehicles:
Besides the NYPD public relations dispensing and local news parroting of “friendly fire” (though there is nothing friendly about being shot to death and a fusillade is definitely unfriendly with any projectiles dispensed), the NYPD clearly spent more effort justifying this narrative in addition to deferring all blame to irrational suspect who was charged with murder despite not being capable of firing a bullet. Multiple conflicting articles came out about Ransom. The NYPD brought up that he tried to commit suicide by cop while Ransom admitted the same but also claimed that he was only doing that as some sort of improv comedic stunt. Like an even more deranged version of the public nuisance comedy of Eric Andre and millions of pranksters on social media app platforms.
No, the only way to describe this preventable tragedy is that Detective Simonson was shot to death and Sgt. Gorman was wounded by his fellow cops from “incompetence fire”. Because incompetence is a causation of what happens when workers screw up on the job despite thorough orientation and training. And it applies when you are hired with the responsibility of protecting the public and your fellow employees. With an automatic gun. This is no different than preventable fatalities in other jobs in warehouses or in construction sites. If your handling equipment and vehicles that require skill and caution, like forklifts and cranes handling tons of materials or working with tools like jackhammers and nailguns, you would best make sure you don’t injure or kill your fellow workers near you.
Because only an incompetent person, in this case incompetent people, would do something carelessly negligent like this. And it damn well shouldn’t be normalized as an unfortunate cost of enforcing laws or depicted as a sacrifice to them like the NYPD and the media irresponsibly did with this tragedy.
But what is also being overlooked in this incident and many others across the nation in the past few years is that Simonson’s back up cops incompetence shows that there is a proclivity among police to empty their whole cartridges even if the situation doesn’t require it. Because the diagram pics above shows that Simonsen and Gorman and two other cops had the suspect cornered.
Although audio is available of the tragic shooting, body cam footage is still being repressed. And because of the 50a law, the identities of the back up uniformed officers are still not known to the public. But everything is known about the suspect and his history and present, as well as it should be. Of what was released by the NYPD and reported by the local papers, Ransom suffered from mental illness and had over 25 prior arrests. He adopted heroic personas while being a public nuisance like dressing in long underwear and a cape as he entered a police station and also walking into a precinct in Crown Heights impersonating an FBI agent. Even his accomplice and lookout, Jagger Freeman, who fled from the crime scene the second the cops came out was also discovered to have prior arrests too.
The NYPD narrative control of the incompetence fire incident has made those two perpetrators guilty before there is even a trial, which has still not materialized. Ransom’s lawyer even exclaimed that his client is being made the scapegoat for the seven cops excessive use of force. In fact, the NYPD’s narrative control of the cause of Simonsen’s death has overreached so much that they actually also blamed the tragedy on cellphone companies, saying they don’t secure or encrypt their products well enough to prevent them from being sold on the black market, which has existed since the advent of them. It’s a good and salient point but how is it relevant to cops unleashing over 40 bullets to take down one man and killing one of their own? It seems the NYPD finds it convenient to defer blame and responsibility on others the way they at times accuse suspects of feigning innocence for their charged crimes.
But what about these heavy finger trigger holding cops and why are their identities still hidden from the public and how can the NYPD justify that they need protection? Which really makes no sense considering that 50a had been reinstated for the reason that cops needed to be protected from criminals will search for them. But how does it apply to these unnamed cops when they killed a cop and not the criminal? Are they using it to protect them from the families of Simonsen and Gorman? It’s a ludicrous question yet the usage and exploitation of 50a for this is just as absurd.
The most pressing questions that should be addressed is are these incompetent unidentified cops are still out there patrolling the streets and if any proper re-training was done to prevent another tragedy from happening again.
A little more than 7 months later, it horribly did and so did the narrative that followed
In the Bronx, three plain clothes cops patrolling the Edenwald Houses following a shootout there between gangs confronted Antonio Williams on a corner to stop and question him. Then Williams makes a run for it. Officer Brian Mulkeen, who ran track and field in high school and college, chased him down and tackled him. While he was grappling with him, Williams continued to resist and while trying to grab Mulkeen’s gun, who kept yelling “he’s reaching for it” Reportedly, was able to grab his gun and shoot five times but missed. Another cop then shoots at their direction then the three other cops arrived and fired 10 rounds, which kills Williams but also hitting their fellow officer who was still on top of him. Mulkeen died later from his wounds.
The backup cops defense for shooting and killing their fellow officer was that they thought they were being shot at.
Then the press conferences and the headlines came in, describing it as another case of “friendly fire”
And again, the usage of an old military media spin was used to ameliorate incompetence that caused another preventable death of a police officer. Maybe the continuing militarization of the police in this city as brought about a culture that are making high brass police officials think they are generals and the local cops think of themselves as soldiers fighting in a war zone dealing with gang members and citizens as they are enemies or insurgents (considering other local precincts around the country like in Ferguson, Missouri).
And again the Mulkeen’s backup that killed him identities were kept hidden from the public and news media. Yet everything came out about the murdered suspect, his history of arrests and gang ties and that a warrant was out on him for a drug charge at the time, as it should be. (It also turned out that he was in possession of a gun, so the cops had justification to stop and question him, but it’s odd that he never used it when he was brought down by Mulkeen and instead went for the cops gun instead).
Though he NYPD and the news media’s effort to lessen the severity of incompetence fire that killed Mulkeen was sloppier this time. A few days later, they announced that they did a training video following the incompetence fire death of Officer Simonson, although cops said it wasn’t really effective. And the link to the NY Post doesn’t go to the video but to the timeline article of Simonson’s death (a Google search doesn’t even have links to it).
The “friendly fire” narrative failed to convince Leann Simonson, the widow of Officer Simonsen, who was aghast that it happened again and implored that cops need to less trigger happy and the urgent need for more firearms training (even that asshole Christopher Ransom chimed in about the incompetence fire death of Officer Mulkeen). But Mayor de Blasio immediately and arrogantly dismissed her to keep the narrative going. Which shouldn’t be a surprise since he’s a full blown advocate to keep 50a in place.
As for the cops who incompetently took out Mulkeen, their names were revealed during the weekend as the NYPD released the body cam footage of the tragic incident. Although it didn’t reveal much at all. Besides showing that there was reasonable suspicion for the stop, there is no audio from the footage of the cops cameras despite the audio from the tussle between Mulkeen and Williams that led to the friendly fusillade.
This video the NYPD released looks more opaque than transparent. It not only attempts to absolve the other cops excessive firing but also makes the rationale behind the stop open for more speculation, even though Williams ran. Yet more narrative control to whitewash a fellow cop’s killing.
When Simonson got killed, it was horribly the 20th anniversary of the killing of Amadou Diallo, shot to death by four cops who fired 41 bullets at him on the steps of his apartment building after he took out his wallet to show them his identification. The four cops thought it was a gun and got acquitted with that defense. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about that incompetence fire mass shooting called American Skin and got defensively excoriated by the NYPD as well as other police precincts around the nation as an anti-cop anthem instead of constructive criticism about inherent racism that goes unaddressed on the force. But what was overlooked in the song was the second verse that advises a boy to respect the police (as if he has no other choice):
Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, “On these streets, Charles
You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you
Promise me you’ll always be polite
And that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama, you’ll keep your hands in sight”
The thing about the mass shooting incompetence fire of Amadou Diallo, an innocent man, is that all four cops names who slaughtered him were revealed to the public. At least the city run by Rudy Giuliani and enforced by Bernie Kerik were accountable to their citizens.
But under Mayor de Blasio and William Bratton and John O’Neill, the usage of 50a has become a cudgel of convenience to not only protect poorly trained police officers but also to reinforce this illusion that the NYPD is immune to error and these are just accidents that come with a risky job. As for Simonson’s fellow cops on that rainy night in Richmond Hill back in February, they all have been reassigned. Where? Who knows?
With the deaths of Simonsen and now Mulkeen, what are the lessons the NYPD themselves are going to learn if they continue to defer blame on the suspects for their own incompetence? Apparently, Mayor de Blasio and the top echelons of the NYPD are going to continue and seem to rather prefer to manufacture consent to avoid responsibility and accountability to cover their collective asses at the expense of the public’s safety…
and the safety of police officers as well.