World News – Two New York City Police Department officers were fatally shot in cold blood as they sat in their police car in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon, in an attack the police commissioner and the mayor branded “an assassination.”
“Today two of New York’s finest were shot and killed, with no warning, no provocation. They were, quite simply, assassinated,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said. “Targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”
The officers were shot at 2:47 p.m. by a gunman who walked up to their parked car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and without warning fired through the passenger side window, Bratton said. The attack was so sudden that the officers, identified as Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, may not have even seen their assailant, Bratton said.
The gunman, identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, then ran into a subway station and turned the gun on himself. Bratton said the gunman traveled to New York City from the Baltimore area, where he earlier shot a former girlfriend, and then carried out the killings. Officials said social media postings indicated a hatred of police.
“These officers were shot execution style, a particularly despicable act that goes to the very heart of our society,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It is an attack on all of us. It is an attack on everything we hold dear.”
Huge protests erupted in New York and also across the country in recent weeks after grand juries declined to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Brown’s family released a statement Saturday saying it “condemns today’s senseless killing of two NYPD officers.” “We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement,” the statement said. “It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities.”
A White House official said President Barack Obama was briefed of the killings. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the deadly ambush “an unspeakable act of barbarism.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has led protests over the deaths of Brown and Garner, denounced the officers’ killings. “I have spoken to the Garner family and we are outraged by the early reports of the police killed in Brooklyn today,” Sharpton said in a statement. “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.”
New York City Councilman Robert E. Cornegy, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant, told reporters that while there has been a lot of frustration in the community over the Garner decision, “I don’t think anybody in their right mind would call for the death of an officer.” He said both officers were stationed in the neighborhood as part of a months-long crime-reduction initiative that he welcomed.
“This is stunning. We’re all as a community stunned,” he said. “They were not overpolicing, they were just a presence. … We believe here we been in the partnership with law enforcement to reduce crime. This could not be any worse.”
Saturday’s ambush is the second unprovoked attack on New York police officers in recent months. In October, a hatchet-wielding man attacked a group of officers as they were posing for a photograph, wounding two of them. The attacker, Zale Thompson, was shot dead. FBI Director James Comey called that assault “an act of terror” that was ideologically driven.
Protests over the deaths of Garner and Brown continued Saturday with demonstrations in the nation’s two largest shopping malls, on the busiest shopping day of the year. Twelve people were arrested after crowds briefly shut down parts of the massive Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and protesters staged a die-in at the King of Prussia Mall in suburban Philadelphia.
PHIL HELSEL, NBCNews.com