© Carlo Allegri/Reuters A police officer wipes tears away from his face as he walks away from the scene of a shooting where two New York Police officers were shot dead in the Brooklyn borough of New York, December 20, 2014.
The two New York City police officers who were ambushed and shot to death in their vehicle Saturday were “quite simply, assassinated,” and the suspect had made Instagram posts that were very anti-police, the police commissioner said.
William Bratton said the officers, Liu Wenjin and Raphael Ramos, were shot in the head without warning after the gunman approached the passenger window of a marked police car and opened fire.
The suspect, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, then ran inside a Brooklyn subway station and fatally shot himself in the head.
Bratton said the suspect shot his ex-girlfriend earlier Saturday in Baltimore and made posts from her Instagram account. “This may be my final post,” said one that included an image of a silver handgun.
Two officials told The Associated Press that the suspect posted about shooting two “pigs” in retaliation for the death of Eric Garner: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.” He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The shooting occurred hours later, around the time that Bratton said that New York police were receiving a warning fax from Baltimore authorities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the killing of the officers strikes at the heart of the city.
“Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy,” said de Blasio, who spoke softly with moist eyes. “It is an attack on all of us.” Police “are the foundation of our society.”
‘Unspeakable act of barbarism’
Scores of officers in uniform lined up three rows deep outside the hospital to honour the fallen police officers. The mayor ordered flags at half-staff.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called Saturday’s shooting deaths an “unspeakable act of barbarism.” President Barack Obama was also briefed on the shooting, and White House officials were monitoring the situation closely, the White House said.
Police in New York are being criticized for their tactics following the recent chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man who was stopped by police on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Amateur video captured an officer wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck and wrestling him to the ground. Garner was heard gasping, “I can’t breathe” before he lost consciousness.
Demonstrators around the country have staged protests since a grand jury decided Dec. 3 not to indict the officer in Garner’s death. The decision closely followed a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.
Bratton said they were looking at whether the suspect had attended any rallies or demonstrations.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, said Garner’s family had no connection to the suspect and denounced the violence.
“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,” Sharpton said.
Brinsley had history of arrests
The last shooting death of a New York Police Department officer came in December 2011, after a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment.
Criminal records show Brinsley has a history of arrests on various charges in Georgia, including robbery, shoplifting, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly conduct and obstruction of a law enforcement officer. Bratton said his last-known address was Georgia, but he had some ties in Brooklyn.
A block from the shooting site, a line of about eight police officers stood with a German shepherd blocking the taped-off street. Officer Ramos was married with a 13-year-old son, police said. He had been on the job since 2012. Liu had been on the job for seven years and got married two months ago, Bratton said.
“Both officers paid the ultimate sacrifice today while protecting the communities they serve,” he said.
The president of the police officers union, Patrick Lynch, and Mayor de Blasio have been locked in a public battle over treatment of officers following the grand jury’s decision. Just days ago, Lynch suggested police officers sign a petition that demanded the mayor not attend their funerals should they die on the job.
The last shooting death of an NYPD officer came in December 2011, when 22-year veteran Peter Figoski was shot in the face while responding to a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment.
The gunman, Lamont Pride, was convicted of murder and sentenced in 2013 to 45 years to life in prison.
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