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New York City Is on Edge After Saturday's Police 'Assassination'

Local cops, already known not to be huge fans of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, are now openly disrespecting him after two of their own were executed by a lone gunman in Brooklyn.

All photos by the author

On Saturday night in Brooklyn, solemn quiet hung over the area surrounding Myrtle Avenue and Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where a few hours earlier Ismaaiyl Brinsley "assassinated" NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos while they were eating lunch in their squad car before taking his own life. Officers working overtime to protect the crime scene or show their support off-the-clock packed nearby delis, soft-spokenly placing orders before returning to their partners with sandwiches and hot drinks.

At around 10 PM, visibly distraught NYPD employees and relatives gathered in silence at Woodhull Memorial Hospital to salute their fallen comrades, as the bodies of Officers Lui and Ramos were carried away. After the emotional ceremony, officers patted each other on the back, embraced, and stood quietly around the hospital where their colleagues were pronounced dead.

The somber evening took a combative turn when Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch spoke to the press moments after the bodies of Liu and Ramos were carried out of the hospital. He placed blame for the " execution" on Mayor Bill de Blasio and the protesters who have been holding demonstrations for police accountability across the city.

"There's blood on many hands tonight. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor," Lynch told reporters after the ceremony. "Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day."

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch

Earlier in the day, an inflammatory statement initially attributed to the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which later denied issuing the memo, read, "The mayor's hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a 'wartime' police department. We will act accordingly."

Before de Blasio's remarks, WPIX11 recorded a video showing officers turn their back to the mayor as he arrived. Lynch later confirmed the disapproving statement from officers with a nod to reporters inquiring about the incident.

Lynch and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association have quickly developed a fraught relationship with de Blasio, whose support for court-issued NYPD reforms and remarks sympathetic to racially-charged policing have been deemed betrayal. After de Blasio told ABC's This Week he spoke with his biracial son Dante about acting carefully around police, the PBA urged officers to notify de Blasio and another politician sympathetic to demonstrators, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, that they are not welcome to attend their funerals, should they die in the line of duty.

De Blasio spokesperson Marti Adams said of Lynch's most recent tirade, "It's unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people," adding that "Mayor de Blasio understands this is the time when we must come together to support the families and friends of those brave officers New York City lost tonight, and the entire NYPD community."

At a press conference before the bodies were carried away, de Blasio issued a teary-eyed remembrance of Liu and Ramos, honoring the men and women of the NYPD.

"When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society," the mayor said. "It is an attack on all of us. It's an attack on everything we hold dear. We depend on our 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."

The family of Missouri teenager Michael Brown—whose death did not result in an indictment for the police officer who shot him, causing widespread protests—also issued a statement condemning the "senseless" killing. "We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement," it read. "It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officers' families during this incredibly difficult time."

At a press conference with the Reverend Al Sharpton Sunday morning, Eric Garner's mother Gwen Carr expressed her condolences for the NYPD's loss, and bemoaned violence in the name of justice for her son. "I'm standing here in sorrow about losing those police officers...we stand with the families," said Carr, "We are going in peace, and anybody who's standing with us, we don't want you to use Eric Garner's name for violence." Garner was killed by a lethal police chokehold on Staten Island this summer.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Sunday urged police reform protesters to hold-off on demonstrations "out of respect and decency" until Liu and Ramos are laid to rest. He called on New Yorkers to join him at the intersection where Liu and Ramos were attacked for a candlelight vigil in the evening, but also pushed back on the police unions' attacks on the mayor.

"Blood is on the hands of one individual—a sick man who did a sick act," Adams said.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. stressed that the killings were a "hate crime," which Congress has defined as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation."

Echoing Lynch, the head of the New Jersey PBA, Patrick Colligan, said in a statement that the shooting is "nothing less than an act of domestic terrorism spurred on by so much recent hatred aimed at officers everywhere."

Though Brinsley was initially tied by some reports to the Black Guerrilla Family—a Baltimore gang whose plan to target "white officers" and "send a message" was detailed by the FBI in a Friday memo—federal law enforcement agents have told the Baltimore Sun that Brinsley has no known ties to the group. Earlier this month, a Black Guerrilla Family threat to harm the NYPD was deemed "not credible."

The motive behind Brinsley's shooting of his ex-girlfriend earlier Saturday has largely been ignored, even though that event appears to have set off his anti-cop rampage. Her blood may be on Brisley's clothing in photographs he posted to Instagram with the caption, "Never Had a Hot Gun On Your Waist and Blood on Your Shoe...Nigga You Ain't Been Through What I Been Through You Not Like Me And I'm Not Like You." According to NBC, "Brinsley's mother and sister told the NYPD that he was a violent person and that they were afraid of him."

The New York Times reported Sunday that Brinsley may have experienced mental illness. According to the Times, during an August 2011 plea hearing in Cobb County, Georgia, Brinsley was asked, "Have you ever been a patient in a mental institution or under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist?" to which he responded yes. NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, citing the suspect's family, said Sunday that he attempted to hang himself about a year ago. The Times report also touches on his record of brushes with the law, which includes charges for serious offenses like making terroristic threats and weapons violations.

The paper added that the Baltimore County Police Department learned of Brinsley's threatening Instagram posts at about 1:30 PM Saturday, and then telephoned the NYPD's 70th precinct to notify the department of his whereabouts at around 2:00. Almost exactly at the time of the killing 45 to 50 minutes later, the Baltimore cops faxed a warning memo to the NYPD's real-time crime center.

On Sunday, flags at New York City administrative offices were being flown at half-staff.

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