Two uniformed New York City police officers were gunned down Saturday afternoon while they sat in a marked police car by a gunman authorities say was seeking revenge.
Officer Wenjian Liu, 32 and Rafael Ramos, 40, were fatally shot by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, who had announced online he was planning to shoot two “pigs” in retaliation for the death of Eric Garner, who died in a chokehold by police, according to AP reports.
Brinsley approached the passenger window of the officers’ police car, parked in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn and opened fire, striking both officers in the head, according to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
“It’s a time of great emotion and great passion,” Bratton said at a press conference at Woodhull Hospital where he had visited the families of the murdered police officers. “Today, two of New York’s finest were shot and killed, with no warning, no provocation. They were, quite simply, assassinated – targeted for their uniform, and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”
Liu and Ramos, who never drew their weapons, according to Bratton, may not have seen their attacker. Other officers pursued Brinsley, who fled into a subway station and took his own life. A silver semi-automatic firearm was recovered on the subway platform near Brinsely’s body, Bratton said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked hospital staff for trying to save the officers and shared sadness he said was “very, very hard to describe.”
“We met the parents of Officer Liu, the woman he recently married,” de Blasio revealed in the press conference. “We met the wife of Officer Ramos. We met his 13-year-old son, who couldn’t comprehend what had happened to his father … I ask that all New Yorkers pray for them, pray for their families. It’s a moment of terrible loss and it’s a moment when we must all come together to support these families, to support healing and to be thankful that there are heroes among us, like Officer Ramos and Officer Liu.”
Protests around the country have formed since a grand jury’s Dec. 3 decision not to indict an officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, caught on video. Brinsley posted a message on Instagram with hashtags #ShootThePolice, #RIPEricGarner and #RIPMikeBrown, referencing the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Brinsley shot and seriously wounded a woman believed to be his former girlfriend in Baltimore County, Maryland, early Saturday, said Bratton. Detectives received information from Brinsley’s mother about his Instagram post and contacted New York-area police, but it was at the same time the officers were shot, he said.
“We will never forget the two young men who lost their lives today,” he said.
President Obama, who recently shared his experiences with racism and said more sport icons should speak out on social issues, issued a statement Saturday from Hawaii where he is spending the holidays with his family.
“I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City,” he said in the statement. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification. The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day – and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”