The racial tension between civilians and law enforcement has increased significantly as two New York policemen were gunned down Saturday while sitting inside their patrol car. The gunman, 28-year old African-American Ismaaiyl Brinsley, allegedly walked up to the vehicle and shot them both in the head through the passenger side window. Brinsley then headed to a nearby subway station where he apparently committed suicide.
Police records show that that Brinsley had been arrested 19 times in the past 10 years. He served a two-year prison sentence in Georgia for the charge of criminal possession of a weapon. He was released in July of 2013.
Brinsley took a train to New York City after he allegedly shot an ex-girlfriend earlier that day in Baltimore. Authorities say that Shaneka Nicole Thompson, age 29, was shot in the abdomen and seriously wounded. She is in critical condition at a Baltimore hospital.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton has not released an official motive in the murder of the two policemen. However, he is quite certain that the two men were targeted because of their uniform and that the murder was a racially charged reaction to the killing of Eric Garner by Daniel Pantaleo, a New York police officer.
Police looked into Brinsley’s social media accounts in an attempt to learn more about the alleged shooter, who was found dead in the subway before he could be questioned. What they found there was harrowing evidence that confirmed Commissioner Bratton’s suspicions. A recent Instagram post by Brinsley read: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours, Let’s Take 2 Of Theirs.” The post also included hashtags referring to Eric Garner.
Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were in no way associated with the death of Eric Garner. They were simply dressed in uniform in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were on their normal beat in Brooklyn in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The New York policemen were gunned down with no warning and without any provocation. Witnesses say that they saw Brinsley walk to the car casually before pulling out the gun and firing four rounds into the vehicle.
Reports indicate that Brinsley was psychologically troubled. He had an estranged relationship with his family and his mother, who lives in Brooklyn. She apparently told investigators that she was genuinely afraid of him. Although the family is Muslim, his mother said that he was not very religious. There is no evidence that Brinsley was involved with any gangs.
Neighborhood residents were shocked and traumatized by the shooting. President Obama condemned the killings, saying that there is no justification for killing the officers who serve and protect our communities. The New York City police union lashed out at the thousands of people across the country who have been involved in demonstrations, saying that they encouraged violence through protest. Police officers also called out Mayor de Blasio, who was generally sympathetic to the protests that have become commonplace in New York City.
Funeral plans for the New York policemen who were gunned down have not yet been announced. Ramos had a 13-year old son and his partner, Liu, was recently married.
By Dac Collins
Photo by Mo Riza – Flickr License