Just before 3pm on Saturday, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were sitting in their patrol car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn when Ismaaiyl Brinsley approached and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, killing them both.
After the shooting, Brinsley fled to a nearby subway station and took his own life. Prior to shooting the officers, Brinsley shot a former girlfriend in Baltimore before heading toward New York. He also allegedly posted anti-police messages on the woman's Instagram account, citing the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police as motivation for his attack.
The families of both Garner and Brown — unarmed black men killed by white police officers in Staten Island, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri, respectively — have since released statements strongly condemning Brinsley's actions and offering their condolences to the families of the slain officers.
"I'm standing here in sorrow about losing these two police officers," Garner's mother, Gwen Carr said in a statement. "That was definitely not our agenda. We are going in peace and anyone who is standing with us, we want you to not use Eric Garner's name for violence, because we are not about that."
Brown's family released a statement that denounced the shooting and discouraged any violence against police in the future.
"The family of Michael Brown condemns today's senseless killing of two NYPD officers," the statement said. "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. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officers' families during this incredibly difficult time."
The deaths of Garner and Brown — and the subsequent exonerations of their killers by separate grand juries — set off a wave of protests across the US that have questioned police tactics and race relations in the country. But those disagreements didn't prevent several groups involved in the demonstrations from offering their condolences over the deaths of the officers.
"We know all too well the pain and the trauma that follows the senseless loss of our family members and loved ones," said a statement from the Black Lives Matter movement. "We extend our hearts and prayers to the families of those who lost their loved ones this week. No one should suffer the loss of those whom they love."
The Ferguson Action coalition rejected the notion that the protests against police led to Saturday's shooting.
"Unfortunately, there have been attempts to draw misleading connections between this movement and today's tragic events," a statement from the organization said. "Millions have stood together in acts of non-violent civil disobedience, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is irresponsible to draw connections between this movement and the actions of a troubled man who took the lives of these officers and attempted to take the life of his ex-partner, before ultimately taking his own."
The protests have been ongoing — including massive marches in recent weeks in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and elsewhere — but Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams asked for a pause until the two officers killed have been laid to rest.
President Barack Obama also denounced the shooting, saying "I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City. 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."
The head of the New York police union tried a different tact, partly blaming Saturday's shooting on New York mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor has come under fire for saying "we have to have an honest conversation in this country about the history of racism and the problem that has caused parents to feel their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police, when in fact the police are there to protect them."
"There's blood on many hands tonight," Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, said Saturday. "Those that incited violence on this street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did everyday. We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor."
Several NYPD officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he entered a press conference about the shooting Saturday night. Delivering an emotional speech, the mayor called the shooting "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," de Blasio said. "It's an attack on all of us. It's an attack on everything we hold dear."
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