Editorial: A tragedy in Queens hits close to home

Last month, police officers from Riverhead and Southold were honored at an awards ceremony in Riverhead. For Southold, the Officer of the Year award went to Officer John Crosser for his role in a dramatic water rescue.

At the same ceremony, two Riverhead police officers, Richard Freeborn and state Trooper Michael Masino, were each named their department’s Officer of the Year due to their efforts to save the life of a man found floating face down in the waters off Grangebel Park.

The Riverhead PBA also honored Officer Kaley Castantine, who was first on the scene when a 911 caller reported a vehicle had driven down the beach access ramp at the end of Roanoke Avenue and crashed into Long Island Sound.

What these officers did in their roles as first responders and lifesavers was heroic and they deserved the honors bestowed on them. We are truly grateful for their service. Not many of us have careers in which we have the opportunity to save lives. These officers, and their colleagues, are in that very business. Pulling over a drunk driver is enforcing the law; it’s also a potentially lifesaving exercise.

So it was with very heavy hearts that Tuesday we heard of the death of New York City Police Detective Brian Simonsen, 42, who was shot and killed in a friendly fire incident as he responded to the scene of an armed robbery at a T-Mobile store in Queens.

Det. Simonsen grew up in Jamesport, graduated from Riverhead High School in 1995, and lived in Calverton. In so many ways, he is one of us — a local who grew up amidst the beauty and charms of the North Fork. But he separated himself from the rest of us by seeking a challenging career in law enforcement in New York City, where he knew his life could be in danger on a routine assignment on any given day. And there, he died in the line of duty.

In the coming days you will read more about Det. Simonsen, about the friends he kept from his youth, about attending Riverhead High School, and the way he conducted himself in his career in law enforcement. He was considered a leader among his peers.

His family has had their share of tragedy and wrenching sadness, and now they have his death to deal with. His sister Melissa Simonsen was struck and killed by a car while crossing Roanoke Avenue in Riverhead in July 1992. She was just 13 years old. Their father, Dr. Paul Simonsen, a dentist, died six months later.

Now, with Det. Simonsen’s death, this is all too much for many people to bear. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and to the men and women in uniform who keep us safe every day.

The family will receive friends Monday, Feb. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral will be held Wednesday morning, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m. All services will be held at Saint Rosalie Roman Catholic Church, 31 East Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays.

Interment will be at the Jamesport Cemetery following the funeral Mass. DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck is assisting the family.

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