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Queens man found guilty of murder for role in 2019 robbery that led to death of Riverhead native, Brian Simonsen

A Queens man was convicted of murder Monday for his role in the 2019 death of Calverton’s Brian Simonsen, an NYPD detective who was fatally shot by friendly fire while responding to a reported armed robbery.

Jagger Freeman, 28, one of two men arrested for the robbery at a Queens cellphone shop, was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault, according to the Queens district attorney.

A jury rendered its verdict after five days of deliberation, bringing an end to the trial that began in early May.

Mr. Freeman was described by police as the lookout in the robbery, while the other suspect, Christopher Ransom, went inside the T-Mobile store. Mr. Ransom pleaded guilty in October 2021 to second-degree aggravated manslaughter and first-degree robbery and is currently serving 33 years in prison. They were both arrested in February 2019, shortly after the robbery. 

Mr. Freeman faces up to 40 years-to-life in prison. His sentencing before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder, who presided at trial, is set for June 30.

“The defendant’s actions set in motion a terrible chain of events that began with an armed robbery in progress and resulted in the tragic loss of Detective Brian Simonsen as well as Sergeant Matthew Gorman being shot in the leg,” Queens DA Melinda Katz said in a statement.

Mr. Ransom went into the store and ordered two employees to hand over cash and merchandise from the back of the store. He was still inside when police arrived. He pointed what appeared to be a handgun at police, who fired at him. The weapon, police later determined, was an imitation firearm. Police at the time said officers fired 42 rounds in 11 seconds.

A second-degree murder charge can be brought against someone who “caused the death of another person during the commission of another crime such as robbery, burglary, arson or sexual assault,” according to the penal code.

Mr. Freeman’s conviction also includes charges related to a separate cellphone store robbery on Feb. 8, 2019, four days before  Det. Simonsen was shot in the torso. He was not wearing a bulletproof vest. In response, the NYPD unveiled new custom vests that can more easily be worn by detectives in plain clothes.

“We express our condolences to Detective Simonsen’s family and hope today’s verdict brings them a measure of closure,” Ms. Katz said.

Prior to the verdict, the Det. Simonsen Foundation, which was created in memory of the Riverhead native, posted on social media that the weeks during Mr, Freeman’s trial had been “excruciating and painful.” 

“To Brian we love and miss you beyond measure,” the post read. “You truly were a light which is so deeply missed every single day.”