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Simonsen Foundation donates specially made vest to new K9 with Suffolk Sheriff’s Department

On a warm Saturday afternoon, Leanne Simonsen met a pup whose work with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department will be made safer because of a foundation established to honor her fallen husband, Brian.

At a ceremony outside the department’s administration building in Riverhead, Reis, a 2-year-old Dutch Shepherd and his handler, Deputy Sheriff Jason Korte, were presented with a ballistic vest specially made for Reis, with the cost paid for by the Simonsen Foundation.

Ms. Simonsen spoke about how honored she was to continue the work of the foundation, which was established after the death in the line of duty of her husband, NYPD Dt. Brian Simonsen in 2019. One of the goals of the Simonsen Foundation is animal rescue — and on Saturday, Ms. Simonsen came to the rescue of Reis.

Leanne Simonsen with K9 Reis. (Credit: Steve Wick)

The Armor Express vest, which Ms. Simonsen and Deputy Korte put on Reis as cameras whirled capturing the moment, will help keep the dog safe on those occasions when a K9 is called for in a law enforcement situation, such as sniffing out drugs or helping make arrests.

Throughout the ceremony, Ms. Simonsen, who lives in Calverton, held tight to her emotions. Between speakers, as Deputy Korte showed Reis’s skills to the delight of a group of children, she spoke about her life now.

After her husband’s death, she said, “I didn’t want to exist anymore. But today, doing this, this is part of the journey for me. I want Brian’s memory to live on. He was larger than life, and I want to continue to do good work in his memory.”

Some law enforcement history was on display at the event. Several speakers, including Undersheriff Steven Keuhhas and PBA President John Becker, pointed out that Reis was named after Suffolk Correction Officer Andrew Reister, who was killed in 2008 while working off duty. 

Members of Mr. Reister’s family were also in attendance, to both honor the fallen officer and to show support and solidarity with Ms. Simonsen.

The donation of the vest by the Simonsen Foundation was also done to honor another fallen officer, NYPD Transit Det. George Caccavale, who was killed in 1976 while working off-duty at a check cashing store. He was 33.

Det. Caccavale’s daughter, Carla Caccavale, was also present at the ceremony. In her remarks, said, “The burden of the badge has never been heavier.”

She said she was just 20 days old when her father was killed. “I never knew him, but I will always honor him,” she said.

K9 Reis. (Credit: Courtesy of Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department)