The shooting death of two New York City police officers at close range has drawn grief and condemnation from national and local officials alike, with President Obama urging Americans to “reject violence and words that harm” amid evidence the shooter had been motivated by revenge over policing practices.
Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were sitting in their squad car in the Benford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn Saturday when the suspect, 28-year old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, approached the passenger side window and fired multiple rounds into the car, hitting the officers in the head and torso. Both victims were taken to an area hospital where they were pronounced dead.
Brinsley apparently fled to a nearby subway station, where he shot and killed himself. Investigators believe he had posted a note on Instagram before the shootings mentioning Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men killed in recent months by police. “I’m putting wings on pigs today,” the message read.
“Today two of New York’s finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters at an emotional press conference Saturday night “They were, quite simply, assassinated. Targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”
“Officer Ramos and Officer Liu never had the opportunity to draw their weapons,” Bratton said. “They may never have had the chance to see their murderer.”
The incident quickly took on national urgency, coming after weeks of largely peaceful protests around the country against police practices after the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Obama issued a statement from Hawaii, where he is vacationing. “I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City,” he said. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight and for that there is no justification.”
Attorney General Eric Holder released a separate statement. “This was an unspeakable act of barbarism, and I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of these two brave officers in the line of duty,” Holder said. “I will make available all of the resources of the Department to aid the NYPD in investigating this tragedy.”
Bratton confirmed that the suspect shot and injured his girlfriend in Baltimore before posting a threatening “anti-police” message toward law enforcement on social media.
“When a police officer is murdered it tears at the fabric of society,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We rely on police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil. They are a foundation of our society and when they are attacked it is an attack on the very concept of decency.”
“Our entire city was attacked by this heinous individual,” de Blasio added.
Saturday’s shooting comes amid heightened tensions in the city following a grand jury’s decision not to indict an NYPD officer in the apparent chokehold death of Garner in Staten Island. Last week, two officers were assaulted and hospitalized by protesters near the Brooklyn Bridge, police said, during a largely peaceful protest that drew more than 25,000 people demonstrating against police violence. Three people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The Garner family is “outraged” by the killing of the two officers, the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement Saturday night. “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.”
New York remains a safe city, with the homicide rate near record lows, though the overall crime rate ticked up slightly between July 2013 and June 2014. The last New York City police officer killed in the line of duty was Detective Peter J. Figoski, in 2011.