NEW YORK—Two New York City Police officers were “assassinated” while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon by a gunman who only hours earlier shot his ex-girlfriend and vowed online to kill cops, police said.
The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, 40, were shot execution-style at point-blank range in the ambush attack near the intersection of Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant at 2:43 p.m., police said.
The killings happened just as the NYPD received word from police in Baltimore County, Md., that the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, had shot his former girlfriend in a suburban home there Saturday morning and might be on his way to New York to harm police.
“Two of New York’s finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said during a news conference Saturday night at Woodhull Medical Center, where both officers were pronounced dead. “They were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of the city safe.”
The officers were working a critical response detail, aimed at combating a crime increase in the Tompkins Houses, when Brinsley walked up to the passenger side of the car, “took a shooting stance,” and opened fire, Bratton said.
“They never had the opportunity to draw their weapons,” Bratton said. “They may never even have actually seen their . . . murderer.”
After the shootings, Brinsley fled into a nearby G train subway station and fatally shot himself on the train platform as pursuing officers closed in, police said.
The murder weapon, a silver-colored semiautomatic Taurus pistol, was recovered in the subway station, police said.
Bratton said investigators believe Brinsley lived in Atlanta and had traveled to the Baltimore area, where he shot his ex-girlfriend Saturday morning.
The posts also made reference to Eric Garner and Michael Brown, both of whom were killed during encounters with police this year.
“Some of the postings seem to indicate he had a very strong bias against police officers,” Bratton said of Brinsley’s activity on social media.
Courtney Felix, 23, said he was at a friend’s apartment near the Tompkins Houses when he heard several gunshots. He looked out the window and saw the two officers struggling to get out of their car.
The officer on the driver’s side was clutching his neck as he fell to the ground, Felix said, while the officer on the passenger side grabbed his shoulder blade and also fell down.
“They looked like they were really hurt, they were struggling to get out of their car,” Felix said.
Bratton said both officers were assigned to the 84th precinct in downtown Brooklyn, but were in the 79th precinct as part of the special detail.
Liu, formerly a school safety officer who fulfilled his dream of becoming a cop three years ago, had celebrated a birthday just last week, officials said. He married his wife two months ago, officials said.
Ramos had a wife and 13-year-old-son “who couldn’t comprehend what had happened to his father,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the news conference Saturday night, adding that he and other officials prayed over the bodies of both men at the hospital.
The mayor called the killings “a particularly despicable act” that “tears at the foundation of our society.
Officials also urged New Yorkers to be vigilant for threats against police on social media, and to report them immediately.
Brinsley’s violent spree began around 5:45 a.m. when he shot and seriously wounded his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, Bratton said. Police there later received information that he was posting anti-police messages on the woman’s Instagram account, Bratton said.
At 2:45 p.m., Baltimore police sent a wanted flier to the NYPD and other agencies warning that Brinsley might be headed their way. But it arrived too late for Ramos and Liu.
“Tragically, this was at the same time they (Liu and Ramos) were being murdered,” Bratton said.
The killing of the officers followed several weeks of protests in response to a grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the apparent chokehold death of Garner during an arrest on July 17.
The decision in the Garner case came just days after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., declined to indict a white police officer in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. That decision touched off a riot in the St. Louis suburb.
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Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a vocal critic of police violence, said in a statement Saturday night that he’d spoken with the Garner family about the officers’ deaths.
“We are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today,” Sharpton said. “Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases.”
Saturday’s shooting was the second unprovoked attack on NYPD cops in recent months. Two rookie NYPD officers from Long Island were injured when a man struck them with a metal hatchet on a Queens street in October. Police at that scene opened fire, killing the attacker and wounding a female bystander.
Bratton at the time called the attack an act of terrorism against cops.
The last NYPD officer killed in the line of duty was Peter Figoski, 47, a West Babylon resident and highly decorated 22-year veteran of the NYPD. He was shot in the face and killed after responding to a robbery call in Brooklyn Dec. 12, 2011.
(With Anthony M. DeStefano, Nicole Fuller, Ted Phillips and Darran Simon)
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