Through the shock and sorrow over the killing of two New York police officers as they sat in their patrol car Saturday, authorities are looking for whatever motivation the alleged shooter – Ismaayil Brinsley, who shot and killed himself moments later – may have had.
Mr. Brinsley was black. The two officers – Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos – were Asian and Hispanic.
And yet the evidence so far points to a reflection of troubles around the country involving instances of white officers not being prosecuted in the questionable deaths of men and boys of color – Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, and John Crawford among them.
Brinsley, 28, wrote on an Instagram account before Saturday's shootings: "I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs.” He used the hashtags Shootthepolice, RIPErivGardner (sic), and RIPMikeBrown – references to the two police-involved deaths that have sparked major protests around the country.
Brinsley had a criminal record, including robbery, assault, and felony gun possession. Authorities report that just before he left Baltimore for New York early Saturday morning, he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend.
In addition to the anti-police messages on Instagram, he posted a photo of a silver handgun of the type retrieved near his body in a subway station.
“Some of the postings would seem to indicate that he had a very strong bias against police officers,” New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said at a news conference Saturday evening. “As to a specific motivation, hopefully we will be able to determine that.”
In his last Facebook post, Brinsley wrote: "I Always Wanted To Be Known For Doing Something Right....... But My Past Is Stalking Me And My Present Is Haunting Me."
Like many other groups involved in police-community relations, ColorOfChange.org, which describes itself as “the nation’s largest online civil rights organization,” is in the middle of the effort to fight police misconduct while speaking out against the violent acts by some protesters.
“We condemn any and all forms of violence, including violence perpetrated by and against police officers,” Rashad Robinson, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement Sunday.
“ColorOfChange will continue to support peaceful protesters fighting for a higher standard of policing in cities across the country,” Mr. Robinson said. “The deaths of these officers in the line of duty should not result in retaliation or more militarized, violent attempts by law enforcement to suppress protests or target civilians. We caution the efforts by police unions and others to draw misleading connections with this tragedy to the growing nationwide movement to hold officers accountable.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Garner's family has no connection to the suspect and denounced the violence.
"We have stressed at every rally and march that anyone engaged in any violence is an enemy to the pursuit of justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown," he said.
Brown's family condemned the shooting in a statement posted online by their attorney. "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," the family said.
In a statement Saturday night, Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the shooting deaths as senseless and "an unspeakable act of barbarism." President Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, issued a statement saying he unconditionally condemns the slayings.
"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," Obama said. "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."
Officers Liu and Ramos were members of the 84th precinct in downtown Brooklyn but had been assigned to patrol the Tompkins Houses, a public-housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant where there had been reports of violence, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Officer Liu, 32, had recently gotten married. Officer Ramos, 40 years old and married, had a 13-year-old son and another son in college.
Rosie Orengo, a friend of Ramos, said he was very involved in their church and encouraged others in their marriages.
"He was an amazing man. He was the best father and husband and friend," she said. "Our peace is knowing that he's OK, and we'll see him in heaven."
“They were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.