New York City’s police commissioner says the gunman who ambushed and killed two officers had made online posts that were “very anti-police”.
Commissioner Bill Bratton choked up at a news conference as he talked about the fatal shootings of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn.
Mr Bratton said gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and wounded his former girlfriend in Baltimore earlier yesterday and made posts on her Instagram account.
Mr Bratton did not specify the contents of the posts but two officials told reporters that Brinsley posted about shooting two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Authorities say Brinsley fatally shot himself after killing the officers.
According to the officials, Brinsley, 28, wrote on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.”
Police said Brinsley approached the passenger window of a marked police car and opened fire, striking officers Ramos and Liu in the head. The officers were on special patrol doing crime reduction work in Brooklyn.
“They were, quite simply, assassinated – targeted for their uniform,” Mr Bratton said.
The sudden and extraordinary violence stunned the city, prompted a response from vacationing President Barack Obama and escalated weeks of simmering ill-will between police and their critics following grand jury decisions not to indict officers in the deaths of Mr Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri. Garner and Brown were black; the officers who killed them are white.
Demonstrators around the country have staged protests following the grand jury decisions.
The New York police union head declared that there is “blood on the hands” of protesters and the city’s mayor.
Brinsley took off running after the shooting. Officers chased him down to a nearby subway station, where he shot himself in the head as a subway train door full of people closed. A silver handgun was recovered at the scene, Mr Bratton said.
“This may be my final post,” Brinsley wrote in the post that included an image of a silver handgun. The post had more than 200 likes but also had many others admonishing his statements.
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.
Mr Bratton said police were investigating whether Brinsley had attended any rallies or demonstrations and why he had chosen to kill the officers.
Brinsley was black; the officers were Asian and Hispanic, police said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the killings of officers Ramos and Liu strike at the heart of the city.
“Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy,” saidMr de Blasio, who spoke softly with moist eyes. “It is an attack on all of us.”
US Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the shooting deaths as senseless and “an unspeakable act of barbarism.”
Mr Obama, holidaying in Hawaii, issued a statement saying he unconditionally condemns the killings.
He said: “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.
“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.”
Early yesterday, Brinsley went to the home of a former girlfriend in a Baltimore suburb and shot and wounded her.
Police there said they noticed Brinsley posting from the woman’s Instagram account threats to kill New York officers.
Baltimore-area officials sent a warning to New York City police, who received it moments too late, Mr Bratton said.
Mr Ramos was married with a 13-year-old son and had another in college, police and a friend said. He had been on the job since 2012 and was a school safety officer.
Mr Liu had been on the job for seven years and got married two months ago.
Rosie Orengo, a friend of Mr Ramos, said he was heavily 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 okay, and we’ll see him in heaven.”
Mr De Blasio and the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, have been locked in a public battle over treatment of officers following the grand jury’s decision.
Just days ago, Mr Lynch suggested police officers sign a petition that demanded the mayor not attend their funerals should they die on the job.
Some officers turned their backs on Mr de Blasio as he walked into the hospital yesterday.
“That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor,” Mr Lynch said.
“After the funerals, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”