The already icy relationship between police and the New York City mayor's office has intensified following the shooting death of two police officers in broad daylight, with the head of the police union holding Mayor Bill de Blasio partly responsible for the killings. "The blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor," Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said.
Dozens of officers and firefighters turned their backs on de Blasio Saturday night before he appeared at a press conference to address the incident. Grieving cops turned to face the walls of Woodhull Hospital, where Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were taken and pronounced dead.
Saturday’s shooting came amid heightened tensions in the city and across the country following the decisions by grand juries in New York and Ferguson, Missouri not to indict police officers responsible for the deaths of Garner and Brown, both of whom were unarmed when they were killed. 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.
De Blasio had angered many police by offering support for the protestors and by suggesting publicly his teenage son Dante, who is biracial, could have something to fear in his encounters with law enforcement. De Blasio draws his strongest political support from black voters, many of whom felt unfairly targeted by what they viewed as heavy handed policing practices under de Blasio's predecessor, Mike Bloomberg.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki joined Lynch in putting blame on the mayor, tweeting that he's "Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio. #NYPD"
De Blasio condemned the attack as an "assassination" and said of the retaliation that "It's unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people."
Investigators Sunday morning are continuing to talk to more eye witnesses, while attempting to calm the community. President Barack Obama in a statement Sunday condemned the "murder of two police officers," saying "two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification."
In a message to the men and women of the NYPD, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton wrote that the flags would be at half-mast to honor the two officers killed. "They were assassinated—targeted for their uniform, and for the responsibility they embraced: to keep the people of this city safe," he said in the statement.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD officer for 22 years, called for unity as New York City mourns. "Blood is not on the hands of the mayor, blood is on the hands of the sick person who took the life of two innocent police officers," Adams said Sunday on "Meet the Press."
"Innocent people should not die in America, doesn't matter if they're wearing a police uniform or a three-piece suit ... We cannot allow an attack on public safety in America," Adams said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giulian on Sunday said the officer shooting are linked to propaganda partially started by Obama "that everybody should hate the police."
"The protest are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don't lead to violence -- a lot of them lead to violence -- all of them lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist," Giuliana said on "FOX News Sunday."
"The blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall"'
Officers Liu and Ramos were sitting in their squad car in the Bedford-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. 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.
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."
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,” 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.
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.