Two NYPD Officers Murdered in Brooklyn Before Gunman Shoots Himself
Two New York City police officers were shot and killed on Saturday afternoon, as they sat in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn.
In a Saturday evening press conference at Woodhull medical center in the borough, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, his voice cracking with emotion, named the two officers killed as Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
Bratton and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio both said the officers had been killed “execution style” and described their deaths as an “assassination”.
“There is no more emotional time for a police officer,” said Bratton. “A death of this nature, an assassination, it’s unlike any other type of emotion. It’s hard to deal with.”
Bratton named the gunman as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, who he said had shot and wounded a woman believed to have been his girlfriend at 5.46am in Baltimore County, Maryland. Police in Baltimore County had sent a warning fax about Brinsley to the NYPD, based on information from the victim’s Instagram account, Bratton said. Tragically, he added, the warning came too late.
“Officer Ramos and Officer Liu never had time to draw their weapons,” Bratton said. “They may have also never had time to see their assailant.”
When they were ambushed, shortly before 3pm, Liu and Ramos were parked in a marked patrol car near the Tompkins Houses public development. The two officers were rushed to Woodhull hospital but, Bratton said: “Despite every effort to save their lies, both officers tragically succumbed.”
Liu had been a policeman for seven years, and Ramos almost three years.
“Our city is in mourning,” said de Blasio. “Our hearts are heavy. We lost two good men who devoted their lives to protect the city they loved. Our hearts go out to their families to their comrades in arms at the 84th precinct, to the family of the NYPD.”
De Blasio said he had met the families of the two officers immediately prior to the press conference, including the woman Officer Liu had recently married, and Officer Ramos’s 13-year-old son.
Bratton said that after the shooting Brinsley fled into the Myrtle-Willoughby G-train station, where, on the westbound platform, he shot himself before officers could reach him. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. A weapon was recovered at the scene. Subway service was partially suspended and police blocked off the streets where the shooting occurred.
Bratton said Brinsley’s Instagram postings, which he said were “very anti-police”, were being investigated. He denied, however, that the shootings were an act of terrorism.
“When a police officer is murdered,” de Blasio said, “it is an attack on all of us, and everything we hold dear.”
Relations between the NYPD and citizens have been tense following the death of a civilian, Eric Garner, who was put in an illegal chokehold by an officer. Last month, a grand jury voted not to indict the officer, sparking protests in the city against police violence in that and other incidents. In November, city police fatally shot Akai Gurley, an unarmed black 28-year-old who was walking down a stairwell.
De Blasio has attracted criticism from police over remarks about NYPD attitudes to people of colour, made in reference to such protests. On Saturday evening the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which comprises around 12,000 active and retired NYPD sergeants, posted to its Twitter feed: “The blood of 2 executed police officers is on the hands of Mayor de Blasio. May God bless their families and may they rest in peace.”
Local news television also showed police appearing to turn their backs on the mayor.
Questioned at the press conference about such tensions, de Blasio said: “I think this is a time to think about these [officers’] families. It’s not a time for politics or political analysis.”
Earlier on Saturday, in response to widespread speculation about the gunman’s motives, the civil rights campaigner the Reverend Al Sharpton said: “I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today.
“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.”
Later the US justice secretary, Eric Holder, condemned what he called an “unspeakable act of barbarism”.
“This cowardly attack underscores the dangers that are routinely faced by those who protect and serve their fellow citizens,” Holder said. “As a nation we must not forget this as we discuss the events of the recent past.
“These courageous men and women routinely incur tremendous personal risks, and place their lives on the line each and every day, in order to preserve public safety. We are forever in their debt.”
The last NYPD officer fatally shot on duty was Peter J Figoski, who was killed in December 2011.
The governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement: “This deplorable act of violence is the opposite of what New York is and what New Yorkers believe in.”
The New York City public advocate, Letitia James, said: “Today, the entire city mourns with the NYPD.”