NEW YORK, N.Y. – The surviving spouse of a fallen NYPD officer raised her voice in concern about the details of the death of her husband and another officer who had been lost to friendly fire incidents, calling New York officers “trigger happy”.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio immediately fired back, saying that while she was a good person, she was wrong.
Leanne Simonsen’s husband was killed in February when he was struck by friendly fire. Then on Sunday, Bronx Officer Brian Mulkeen suffered a similar fate when members of the NYPD accidentally shot and killed their fellow LEO while he wrestled with a suspect.
She spoke out to The New York Post about the similarities of the tragic deaths.
“I just can’t believe it happened again,” Simonsen said. “I know things happen in seconds, but there’s gotta be some way that you clear your guys before you just start firing.’’
Leanne Simonsen, wife of Det. Brian Simonsen killed by friendly fire in February: "I just can't believe it happened again…it’s almost like a trigger-happy thing…I mean, to just fire when you don’t even know?” https://t.co/1rqrFNixRC
— Ali Watkins (@AliWatkins) October 2, 2019
The surviving spouse wanted to be sure of how she was phrasing her statements, pausing to clarify.
“Let me just start with, it’s the perp’s fault no matter what. I’m not blaming the NYPD, she told the Post. “But do I feel like [police brass] need to do something. Training? Absolutely.”
De Blasio negated her comments, saying that while the past eight months were difficult, she was wrong about New York Police being “trigger happy”.
“She’s a very good person and she’s speaking out of real personal pain,” de Blasio said about Leanne Simonsen’s comments. “My experience has been very different over now six years, having seen so many situations and a lot of body camera footage and other footage where officers showed extraordinary restraint.”
Hold on. Is this the same guy who’s been chastising the way police in his city operate for years? And while he’s calling for more training, it seems like this might be the first time he’s coming to the defense of his officers.
But while he condemned her remarks about “trigger happy” cops, he did see eye to eye with her on one issue – more extensive training is needed for all NYPD officers.
“There’s a real issue. We lost two of our officers,” the mayor said. “It means by definition we have to keep understanding what the NYPD can do better, and I think training is always part of the solution.”
After Simonsen was killed in February, uniformed officers were mandated to complete “an enhanced one-day training course focused on the response to critical incidents” in order to have better preparation for similar situations in the future.
New York City police say an officer shot and killed while wrestling with an armed man was fatally struck by gunfire from his fellow officers. https://t.co/0hYckUyH9V
— AP Eastern US (@APEastRegion) September 30, 2019
Commissioner James O’Neill also commented that the department “can learn from this.”
“We are going through a full review and . . . [will] determine what needs to change in training,” O’Neill said. “And clearly there has to be some additional approach to training here, and we have to get that right.”
Simonsen’s husband was killed during a chaotic robbery of a T-Mobile store who pulled a fake gun on police. Responding officers fired a total of 42 times during the shootout, a number that Simonsen says is overkill.
“I don’t know the answer, but it’s almost like a trigger-happy thing. It’s almost like, once you hear one officer fire, you all start firing. It’s almost like a reaction. You just start shooting,” Simonsen said.
The suspect in the robbery survived being struck by eight rounds, but Brian Simonsen was killed by friendly fire.
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She expressed her sorrow for the family of Mulkeen after he was killed in a similar incident in the Bronx on Sunday.
“My heart breaks for his family because I know exactly what they’re going through,’’ she said.
But now she wants more to be done by the administration — before another family has to endure the same thing.
“I feel like I’ve never really gotten an apology and no explanation and no ‘this is what we’re going to try to different.’ I think something needs to be done, especially after Brian Mulkeen,’’ she said.
Check out de Blasio’s statements below.
Leanne Simonsen continues to struggle with the terms of her husband’s demise, noting that the officers weren’t suspended or given further training, but quickly returned to the street not long after the incident took Detective Simonsen’s life.
“It wasn’t just one murder that night. It took my life away, too,’’ she said. “He was actually my world. Without him, I just feel like I exist.”
De Blasio finished his statements by saying the department would do more to prevent further unnecessary tragedies in the future.
“Overall I think the big picture is, every time we’ve invested in training it’s had a very powerful impact . . . and we’re going to do more.”
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