The Riverhead High School softball team paid tribute to fallen NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen Tuesday.
Arm in arm, Det. Simonsen’s mother, Linda, and wife, Leanne, stepped into the pitcher’s circle to throw out two ceremonial first pitches, drawing applause from dozens of supporters at the Riverhead High School field.
Det. Simonsen served with the NYPD in Queens for 19 years. He was killed in the line of duty Feb. 12 while responding to a report of an armed robbery at a cell phone store in Queens. He was 42.
The ceremony, organized by an athletics booster club, paid tribute to Det. Simonsen, who grew up in Jamesport and graduated from Riverhead High School in 1995.
“We wanted to honor Det. Simonsen,” said varsity coach Jackie Zilnicki prior to the team’s game against Bay Shore. “There’s a lot of girls [on the team] that knew him from the neighborhood, or their fathers are cops. We thought it’d be nice to honor them and bring them out today.”
The girls and their coaches wore shirts donated by Digger’s Ales N’ Eats to honor Det. Simonsen — or “Smiles” as he was known to many — and NYPD hats donated by the Suffolk Police Conference and Riverhead Police Department.
Blue plastic cups were arranged in the fence surrounding the field to read “#3877,” his shield number, and “Smiles.”
Linda and Leanne were each presented with flowers and a hat after the ceremony.
Linda expressed gratitude for friends, family and law enforcement who have stayed by their side after a tragic loss.
“Brian was compassionate and kind,” she said.
Tuesday’s ceremony is just one way the community has rallied to support the fallen detective in the weeks after his death.
The Riverhead Town Board Tuesday was set to vote on a resolution authorizing the honorary name designation of “Detective Brian Simonsen Way” along South Jamesport Avenue, where he grew up.
“It shows how much he was loved,” Ms. Simonsen said. “They’ve really paid him a heroic tribute.”
Friends have also organized a Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation Event on Sunday, May 19 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at East Wind in Wading River.
According to Terrence LeGrady, a sergeant with the Shelter Island Police Department and a longtime friend of Det. Simonsen, the event will help raise money for a scholarship to keep his memory alive.
Tickets are $75 in advance, or $85 at the door. For more information, email [email protected] or contact organizers Lindsay Ekizian (631-664-4381), Mike Lojko (516-769-4727), or Ricky Waters (516-659-6639).