In a crime sure to shock all decent souls and to shame those protesters who were chanting for dead cops a week ago, a gunman walked up to a marked NYPD car on Saturday afternoon and shot two uniformed police officers, killing both.
“Five days before Christmas,” a senior law enforcement official noted.
From a shooting stance by the passenger side window, 28-year-old Ishmael Brinsley repeatedly fired a silver Taurus semi-automatic pistol. The bullets struck Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu in the head as they sat in their patrol car parked near the corner of Tompkins and Myrtle Avenues. Ramos had been at the wheel. They had no opportunity to draw their guns and may not have even realized the gunman was there.
Brinsley then fled into a subway station a block away. Other cops chased him down onto the westbound platform.
“Get down! Get down!” a cop shouted to the waiting passengers.
A shot rang out as Brinsley took his own life, sprawling with the gun at his side. He had shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend early that morning in Baltimore and headed for his native Brooklyn. He was SAID to have paused to post photo of what was almost certainly the same silver Taurus semi-automatic pistol on Instagram, along with these words:
“I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today. They take 1 of Ours…Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThe Police #RIPErivGardner (sic) #RIPMikeBrown This May Be My Final Post…I’m Putting Pigs In A Blanket.”
At least some people had seen the posting and failed to notify the authorities, hopefully because they had not taken it seriously. Ramos and Liu were now rushed to nearby Woodhull Hospital, where one was pronounced dead. The other officer also proved to be beyond saving.
Both Mayor De Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton rushed to the hospital. They there met the families of the murdered officers. Liu had been married just two months before and his wife now stood in this Brooklyn hospital, a sudden widow because of a madman. Ramos’ 13-year-old son stood nearby, suddenly without a father.
A senior law enforcement official suggested one early lesson from the tragedy.
“You start shouting ‘shoot cops!’ and some nut might listen to you,” he said.
On December 15, some of the protesters demonstrating in Manhattan against the failure of grand juries in Staten Island and Missouri to indict police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown were videotaped chanting, “What do we want!? Dead Cops!” Thousands of others chanted, “How do you spell murder? NYPD!”
The message was that all cops should be condemned by the actions of the very few, and that is just the sort of fevered ignorance that incites violence in those who find meaning in nothing else. Brinsley had apparently not even been in New York that weekend, but he certainly shared that way of thinking and took it to an extreme.
Around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Brinsley posted on his Facebook page that, “I Always Wanted To Be Known For Doing Something Right... But My Past Is Stalking Me And My Present Is Haunting Me.”
He had by that point shot his ex-girlfriend and he had to know the police were looking for him.
By mid-afternoon he had apparently decided to escape his past and present by striding up to a radio car as a self-imagined avenger. He shot the two officers just about the time the NYPD receiving an alert from the Baltimore police saying that Brinsley was wanted for a shooting and may be in Brooklyn.
After the demonstrations, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the police union, had blasted the mayor for supporting the protestors at the expense of the cops. The PBA president. Patrick Lynch, had said that De Blasio should stay away from the funerals of any police officers killed in the line of duty.
Now there would be two funerals and police officers turned their backs on De Blasio as he strode with Bratton towards an evening press conference in the hospital auditorium. They were not likely to be appeased by the remarks De Blasio would make to the assembled media about the sacrifices cops make in protecting all of us.
Bratton noted that the murdered officers were posted outside their usual precinct in downtown Brooklyn to help reduce violence in the Tompkins Houses in Bedford Stuyvesant, as part of the ongoing effort that has made New York the safest big city in America. He added that the officers were murdered not because of who they were but what they were.
“They were quite simply assassinated,” Bratton said. “Targeted for their uniform.”
Police had heard that the killer may have had ties to a prison gang called the Black Guerilla Family, which was said by an anonymous caller to 911 in Baltimore to be planning to kill cops, though the caller had not mentioned the death of Garner or Brown. Bratton was not ready to say that Brinsley was acting as part of a group or as anything but a lone monster.
Bratton did note that this was the seventh time since 1972 that a pair of NYPD partners had been murdered. He went on to say that even such double horrors had never kept cops from continuing on.
“They grieve and they mourn but then they go out into the streets of the city to protect us every day and every night,” Bratton said. “It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all.”
He said that the NYPD will be in deepest mourning this Christmas season.
“But they’ll go out and they’ll do what we expect of them because that's what cops do,” he went on.
He then said again, “But it’s not easy.”