By Albert Lin
Rafael Ramos, Wenjian Lee
Two unsuspecting New York City police officers were executed while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood on Saturday afternoon, dealing another blow to a police force still under siege for the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
The gunman, later identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, approached the vehicle from the passenger side, according to multiple eyewitnesses, and discharged several shots into the vehicle, striking both officers in the head. Officers Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, were declared dead at Woodhull Medical Center.
“Today two of New York’s finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “They were, quite simply, assassinatedtargeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio added: “It is an attack on all of us; it’s an attack on everything we hold dear.”
Even President Obama weighed in, saying in a statement: “I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.
“The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single dayand they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that healprayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”
After firing the shots, Brinsley fled to a nearby subway station, where he killed himself as officers closed in.
Brinsley shot (but did not kill) a former girlfriend in Baltimore on Saturday morning before taking a bus to New York.
Authorities later revealed that Brinsley had apparently announced his intentions on a now suspended Instagram account, posting a photo of a handgun along with this ominous message: “I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours Let’s Take 2 of Theirs. #RIPErivGarner [sic] #RIPMikeBrown This May Be My Final Post. I’m Putting Pigs In A Blanket”
Police also said that moments before the shooting, he told several passers-by to follow him on Instagram, adding, “Watch what I’m going to do.”
Brown’s family condemned the shooting, saying in a statement: “We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officers’ families during this incredibly difficult time.”
Reverend Al Sharpton said he had spoken to Garner’s family, who had the same reaction as Brown’s. “We are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today,” Sharpton said in a statement. “Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases. We have stressed at every rally and march that anyone engaged in any violence is an enemy to the pursuit of justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown.”
Brinsley had been living in the Atlanta area but had ties to the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and apparently was born in New York City. He had a history of run-ins with police but nothing that suggested he would be capable of premeditated murder. In 2011, he was arrested in Cobb County, Ga., after a shooting incident, for which he was ordered to pay $1,700 in fines. During a plea hearing, according to court records, he was asked if he had ever received psychiatric care; he replied yes, but no further details are given.
On nine other occasions he was booked into jail, according to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2009, he was arrested on a felony robbery charge in Ohio, but the case was dismissed.
The New York Daily News reported that Baltimore police were investigating Brinsley’s connection to the Black Guerilla Family, a gang that was started by a Black Panther in the 1960s in California’s San Quentin Prison. A source told the Daily News: “BGF has been talking about getting back at cops for Eric Garner and Ferguson.”
The Daily News reported on Dec. 6 that an undercover NYPD officer learned on Dec. 5 of a BGF plot to kill on-duty cops. The police union warned officers to take extra precautions, but the NYPD investigated and concluded there was no “credible threat” to the lives of its officers.