Wall Street Journal
Dec. 21, 2014 12:27 a.m.


NYPD Shooting Suspect Referenced Garner, Brown Cases

 

Officers Were ‘Targeted for Their Uniform,’ Police Commissioner Says

 

CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS
A police officer wiped tears away near the scene of the shootings of two New York police officers Saturday in Brooklyn. A gunman killed the officers as they sat in their squad car, then killed himself. See more photos at the end of this article.

Two New York City police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who ambushed their patrol car outside a Brooklyn housing project on Saturday, in what top city officials called a targeted killing.

“They were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said at a news conference at Woodhull Medical Center on Saturday evening.

The alleged gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was chased by other officers to the platform of a nearby subway station, where he committed suicide, police said. Officials have determined that Mr. Brinsley, 28 years old, started his day in the Baltimore area, where he allegedly shot a woman believed to be his former girlfriend before 6 a.m.

Mr. Bratton said police are investigating social-media postings in which Mr. Brinsley foreshadowed the killings and referenced Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men who recently died during encounters with white police officers. Authorities have said both men were resisting arrest.

Mr. Brinsley posted a photo of a silver handgun and a message on Instagram several hours before the shooting, according to law-enforcement officials. In a message that he said may be his last, he talked about killing police officers in retaliation for the deaths of Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown.

“Some of the postings…that are out there would seem to indicate that he had a very strong bias against police officers,” Mr. Bratton said. “As to a specific motivation, hopefully we will be able to determine that.”

The shooting has escalated tensions between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police, which have been building since protests began last month over the Brown and Garner deaths.

The shooting occurred around 2:45 p.m. as officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu sat in their patrol vehicle keeping watch over the Tompkins Houses, as part of a crime-reduction effort launched in May following an uptick in shootings at city housing projects, particularly those in Brooklyn, police said.

Officer Ramos was in the driver’s seat. Officer Liu was in the front passenger seat, Mr. Bratton said.

Mr. Brinsley walked up to the police car, took a “shooting stance” on the passenger side of the car and fired several shots through the front passenger window, striking both officers in the head, Mr. Bratton said.

Khalid Nadi, 22 years old, who works at the nearby Smart Deli and Grill, said he heard shots while he was working and looked out from the counter to see a man with a gun.

“I heard, ‘boom, boom, boom,’ ” Mr. Nadi said. “He said, ‘F--- it.’ Then he went away.”

The officers “never had the opportunity to draw their weapons” and may never have seen Mr. Brinsley before he opened fire, Mr. Bratton said.

Jose Ruiz, 26, who has lived in the Tompkins Houses for six years, said he was walking to the store with his 3-year-old son to get milk shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon when he watched a big man, apparently an undercover police officer, touch one of the two officers on the neck.

“He saw he was still alive,” and pulled him out of the car and put him on the ground, Mr. Ruiz said.

While some in the neighborhood expressed mixed feelings toward the police on Saturday night, Mr. Ruiz said he felt bad for the officers. “They try and take care of us,” he said.

The officers were taken to Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, where they were pronounced dead.

Nearby officers pursued Mr. Brinsley for several blocks to a subway station, where he shot himself once in the head on the platform, Mr. Bratton said. He was pronounced dead at Brooklyn Hospital. A silver handgun was recovered near his body on the subway platform.

Video footage of Mr. Brinsley being taken to an ambulance on a stretcher showed a medic sitting on top of him pumping his chest. In the footage, Mr. Brinsley is wearing camouflage pants and sneakers.

Mr. Bratton said Mr. Brinsley had been on the run after he shot a woman near Baltimore on Saturday morning. Baltimore County authorities confirmed the link between the two incidents and said a 29-year-old woman shot in Owings Mills, Md., on Saturday morning is expected to survive.

Baltimore County Police officials said they learned at about 1:30 p.m. that Mr. Brinsley had posted threats against police officers on Instagram. After determining the posts were made from Brooklyn and tracking the suspect’s phone, county authorities said they called the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn at about 2:10 p.m. to tell them a Maryland shooting suspect was believed to be in the area and had threatened police on social media. A wanted poster was also faxed at that time, the county authorities said. A Teletype with the same information was sent to the NYPD’s real-time crime center at 2:50 p.m., they said.

According to public records, Mr. Brinsley has a string of arrests in Georgia and North Carolina reaching back to 2006, for carrying a concealed weapon, shoplifting, possession of a firearm and obstructing police, among other charges.

At the news conference, Messrs. de Blasio and Bratton were visibly emotional as they held a briefing moments after meeting with the families of officers Ramos and Liu.

“Please bear with us as we try to bring some sense to the madness that occurred this afternoon on the streets of Brooklyn,” Mr. Bratton said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to find words to speak to events like those that occurred today.”

Mr. de Blasio said, “When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society.”

Late Saturday night, President Barack Obama condemned the killings. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification,” he said. Attorney General Eric Holder also denounced the killings and promised New York law-enforcement agencies the full support of the Justice Department.

The shootings come as the city has been roiled by near-daily protests following a grand-jury decision not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Mr. Garner, who died after being put in an apparent chokehold.

Mr. Brinsley was black. The slain officers were Hispanic and Asian, police said.

Tensions in the city have been high in the past week as city and police leaders have worked to calm outrage over an attack on two police officers who were trying to make an arrest during a protest last weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Leaders of two of the NYPD’s two largest unions, the Sergeants Benevolent Association and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, laid blame for the killings at the feet of both the mayor and protesters.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” PBA President Patrick Lynch told reporters outside Woodhull hospital, minutes after the two officers’ bodies were removed by ambulance amid a silent salute by about 100 police officers. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.”

Mr. Lynch’s comments come less than a week after he circulated a petition among police officers, asking them to tell the mayor not to attend their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty.

Mr. de Blasio said on Saturday night, “I think this is a time to think about these families. I don’t think it’s a time for politics or political analysis.”

Civil-rights leaders were quick to denounce the shooting.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he had spoken to Mr. Garner’s family, and that “we are outraged.”

“The Garner family and I have always stressed that we do not believe that all police are bad, in fact we have stressed that most police are not bad,” Rev. Sharpton said.

The family of Michael Brown, whose death in Ferguson, Mo., sparked a national debate on race and police use of force, condemned today’s killing.

“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,” the family said in a statement.

—Melanie Grayce West, Jennifer Smith, Mark Morales, Sonja Sharp, Scott Calvert and Carol E. Lee contributed to this article.

Write to Pervaiz Shallwani at pervaiz.shallwani@wsj.com

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A man leaves flowers at an impromptu memorial near the site where two police officers were killed Saturday in the Brooklyn.
JOHN MINCHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, attends Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday with Police Commissioner William Bratton, center, and Chief of Department Chief James O'Neill, left.
 STEPHANIE KEITH/REUTERS
A police officer lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene were two police officers were shot in the Brooklyn Saturday.
CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS
An ambulance carrying one of the slain officers passed by a New York Fire Department honor guard along Broadway in Brooklyn. 
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mourners stood at attention as the bodies of two slain police officers were transported from Woodhull Medical Center.
JOHN MINCHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Investigators worked near where the shootings occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
NYPD
New York Police Officers Rafael Ramos, left, and Wenjian Liu were killed Saturday.
JOHN MINCHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Investigators at the scene of the shootings.
JOHN TAGGART/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during a news conference with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton (right).
REUTERS
Police blocked off an area near where the shootings occurred.
JOHN MINCHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Investigators worked near the area of the shootings.
CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS
Police at the scene of the shootings.