December 22 2014
– The gunman who ambushed and killed two New York City police officers in their car told two bystanders moments earlier to “watch what I’m going to do,” the city’s top detective says.
The police department’s chief of detectives, Robert Boyce, said Sunday that Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, talked to two people on the street moments before the shooting, told them to follow him on the social media site Instagram and said they should watch what he was about to do.
Boyce said Brinsley had a record of at least 19 arrests, most of them in Georgia and four in Ohio. He had attempted suicide, the detective said, and was estranged from his sisters. He had a violent childhood, and his mother said she was afraid of him, Boyce said.
He said there were 10 eyewitnesses to the shooting of the two officers, Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, as they sat in their patrol car Saturday, and as many witnesses to Brinsley’s last moments when he turned the gun on himself on a subway platform a short time later.
Brinsley did not have any known gang affiliations and had not made religious statements on social media examined thus far, Boyce said. He said Brinsley had voiced anger with the government, burned a flag and made comments about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who died during during confrontations with police.
About 100 people gathered Sunday evening for a vigil at the street corner where the two officers were shot, the intersection of Myrtle and Tompkins Streets in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. A collection of candles, flowers, stuffed animals and handwritten notes formed a temporary memorial to the officers. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams led a smaller group from the nearby New Testament Church to the scene of the vigil, singing This Little Light of Mine.
“I came down to pay my respects to the officers that were killed, said Dante Fernal, 57, a black resident of the community. “It was a tragedy — no one should have done what happened.”
Fernal had praise for police, crediting them with helping clean up the area: “Look, I live in projects like the ones here, and a few years back, they were real bad. Then they put much more police near the place, and things got much nicer. Me and the guys in the local precinct get along just fine.”
Police officers and other mourners stand in silence,
Police officers and other mourners stand in silence, Sunday during a candlelight vigil near the spot where two New York Police Department officers were shot by an armed man, killing them both. (Photo: Craig Ruttle, AP)
As the city mourned the execution-style murders, tension flared between Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police union.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed that flags on state buildings in the city be lowered to half-staff to honor the officers.
“It is with great sadness that we mourn their passing after a senseless and deplorable act of violence,” Cuomo said Sunday. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of these two brave men.”
Brinsley, 28, shot Liu, a seven-year veteran of the force, and Ramos, who joined in 2012, before fleeing to a nearby subway station where he apparently committed suicide, Police Commissioner William Bratton said.
President Obama offered his support to Bratton on Sunday — and reiterated a call for Americans to reject violence and words that harm. Saturday, de Blasio paid homage to the officers, asking that “all New Yorkers pray for them and pray for their families in this moment of terrible loss.”
But as the mayor and his entourage walked through Woodhull Hospital, where the officers had been pronounced dead, dozens of police officers turned their backs on him as he passed.
The mayor and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch have been at odds since a New York grand jury declined this month to indict a white officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner. Lynch accused de Blasio of failing to support officers and suggested the mayor would not be welcome at funerals for police officers should they die on the job.
“That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor,” Lynch said Saturday. “After the funerals, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”
Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, issued a statement Sunday accusing politicians in general of “bemoaning the lack of trust of police by the minority community” without addressing the issues of poverty, unemployment and education that “create a toxic environment which breeds crime.”
The shooting comes as police across the USA are being criticized for their tactics after widely publicized deaths of unarmed black men. A week before the Garner decision, a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. Those cases kicked off ongoing demonstrations across the nation.
Brinsley purportedly wrote on an Instagram account before Saturday’s shootings: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours … Let’s take 2 of theirs.” Also included: #Shootthepolice, #RIPErivGardner (sic), #RIPMikeBrown.
Social media posts threatened ‘pigs’
The families of Garner and Brown, who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., have repeatedly requested that their names be used only in connection with peaceful protests.
“Anyone who is standing with us, we want you to not use Eric Garner’s name for violence because we are not about that,” Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said Sunday at a Harlem news conference with civil rights leader Al Sharpton. “These two police officers lost their lives senselessly. Our condolences to the families — and we stand with the families.”
Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Brown family, released a statement late Saturday saying the family condemned the “senseless killing of two NYPD officers. We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement.”
In Brooklyn, John Cureton, 57, said anyone blaming protesters for the deaths of the two officers should think about what sparked the demonstrations.
“Everyone is pointing the finger at the mayor,” he said. “They’re pointing the finger at Al Sharpton and protesters. If you’re going to point the finger, let’s start at the beginning with the officer who put the chokehold on Eric Garner. How does he feel? Because of his actions, this is what happened. The officer who killed Michael Brown. Because of his actions, this is what happened.”
Police deaths nationwide are up 23% this year to 123 after a decline in 2013, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which closely tracks officer fatalities. Firearm-related deaths represented the largest increase, jumping 58% to 49 this year. The numbers include Saturday’s tragedy.
Police say Brinsley began his rampage by shooting his girlfriend, Shaneka Nicole Thompson, 29, in her Baltimore County home. Thompson, 29, remained in critical but stable condition Sunday. Baltimore police sent a warning to the NYPD after discovering that Brinsley posted threats to kill New York officers from the woman’s Instagram account.
“The tragedy here is just as the warning was coming in, the murder was occurring,” Bratton said. “They were, quite simply, assassinated, targeted for their uniform and the responsibility they embraced.”
Lisa Rivera, 37, was home with her three kids when she heard gunshots from across the street.
“I heard pops. It was so close,” she said.
When Rivera looked out her fourth-floor apartment window, several officers were running toward a nearby subway station, and two officers were lying on the ground. Within seconds, people were doing chest compressions on both officers.
To her, Brinsley is a “coward.”
“That is a monster who would do something like that,” she said. “It’s so sad. It’s crazy. It was not necessary. ”
William McMillon, 76, a retired cab driver who has lived in Brooklyn all his life, said he was so hurt by the shootings that he couldn’t pull himself together to take a photo of a memorial for the officers.
He said a cousin who lives near him is a retired NYPD officer. It pains McMillon that someone would target officers.
“It’s like something crawled inside me and died, there’s such pain over the loss,” he said. “Contrary to the popular belief, people do love and respect the police department.”
– Yamiche Alcandor & John Bacon