Two New York police officers were "ambushed and murdered" as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, New York police commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters at an emotional press conference Saturday after the attack.
The attacker, identified by authorities as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot the officers "execution-style" in the head. Brinsley was wanted in connection with another shooting that occurred early Saturday morning in Baltimore, and posted several times on Instagram and Facebook in the hours leading up to the shooting.
His posts seem to indicate the attack was planned and was possibly committed as revenge for the recent deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police. Those incidents — which took place in Staten Island, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri, respectively — ignited protests across the country and have stirred anger and resentment against the police.
VICE News obtained a screen grab from the now-disabled Instagram account used by Brinsley. A message posted three hours before the shooting Saturday shows a photo of a silver automatic pistol with a wooden handle. "I'm Putting Wings on Pigs Today," the message said. "They Take 1 Of Ours… Let's Take 2 of Theirs."
The post used hashtags that reference Garner and Brown, and ended with the ominous statement, "This May Be My Final Post… I'm Putting Pigs in a Blanket," accompanied by gun and gunshot emojis.
Bratton identified the slain officers as partners Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The commissioner said the men were stationed outside the Tompkins Houses, near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood at about 3pm Saturday.
Bratton told reporters that Brinsley approached the police cruiser from the passenger side, "took a shooting stance," and "fired his weapon several times through the front window."
"They may never have actually seen their murderer," Bratton said.
A police source told VICE News the men were "both shot execution-style in the head."
After the shooting, Brinsley fled to the nearby Myrtle Avenue subway stop, running down the stairs and onto the westbound platform for the G train, where he killed himself with a gunshot to the head.
A police source told VICE News that Brinsley "ran down the subway and shot himself," and a single shell casing was found on the platform.
Bratton said that at approximately 5:45am, Brinsley shot and seriously wounded his former girlfriend in Baltimore. Police there sent a "wanted flyer" for Brinsley to law enforcement agencies across the region, but Bratton said that "just as the warning was coming in the murder was occurring."
Bratton said Brinsley's most recent residence was in Atlanta, Georgia, but "he appears to move around." Bratton said Brinsley "had associations with the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn."
A Facebook account linked to Brinsley contains a post from the day of the shooting that says, "I Always Wanted To Be Known For Doing Something Right……. But My Past Is Stalking Me And My Present Is Haunting Me."
A website that features Georgia mugshots also shows Brinsley's photo from a 2007 arrest for criminal trespass.
"We're still trying to put together his movements and where he's been over these days and weeks and months," Bratton said.
Speaking after Bratton in a somber address to reporters at the Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, where the officers were transported after the shooting, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the attack, and said the city and its police force was in a state of mourning.
"It's clear this was an assassination," de Blasio said. "These officers were shot execution-style — a despicable act that goes at the very heart of our society and our democracy. When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It's an attack on all of us. It's an attack on everything we hold dear."
The mayor said that, although Brinsley took his own life, police remain "vigilant" and are seeking information about anyone else who might be involved.
Bratton and de Blasio said that Officer Ramos, 40, leaves behind a wife and 13-year-old son. Officer Liu, recently married, is survived by his wife and parents.
"Two of New York's finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation," Bratton said. "They were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embrace, to keep the people of this city safe."
According to Bratton, police partners have been killed together in New York City seven times since 1972. According to the New York Times, the last NYPD officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty was Peter Figoski in 2011.
VICE News reporter Meredith Hoffman contributed to this article.
Follow Keegan Hamilton on Twitter: @keegan_hamilton