Los Angeles police tonight wore black bands over their badges "in honor of our fallen brothers" in New York, said Chief Charlie Beck. The department was also reportedly subject to a higher state of alert as law enforcement from coast to coast contended with the possibility of anti-police violence in the wake of the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases.
The man who fatally ambushed two New York Police Department officers today is believed to be the same Instragram user who posted a message saying, "They take 1 of ours ... let's take 2 of theirs," before the attack outside a Bedford-Stuyvesant housing project, where the victims sat inside a stopped patrol car, authorities said.
The suspect, later identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, later shot himself to death as responding cops moved in on his location at a nearby subway stop, police said.
Baltimore police said Brinsley shot an ex-girlfriend, who survived, early today before traveling to New York. Baltimore police tried to warn New York cops that the suspect was en route to the Big Apple with a chip on his shoulder about police, New York authorities said.
New York cops said they got the message about the same time, 2:45 p.m., the suspect shot fellow officers, but there are some reports that say the warning came about a half hour before the attack.
The fallen officers were identified as Wenjian Liu, a 32-year-old, seven-year veteran of the force, and Rafael Ramos, a 40-year-old, two-year veteran. Ramos left behind a 13-year-old son. Both men died at hospitals, police said.
The shooting was reported about 2:47 p.m. EST at Myrtle and Tompkins avenues, police said.
New York police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who worked as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in the '00s, called the attack an assassination, and he spoke of the suspect's "anti-police" feelings:
Today, two of New York's Finest were shot and killed, with no warning, no provocation. They were, quite simply, assassinated - targeted for their uniform, and for the responsibility they embraced: to keep the people of this city safe.
The horror was met with anger and sadness across the nation. Chief Beck took to Twitter:
Our hearts go out to the entire NYPD family as they mourn the tragic loss of two brothers.
The LAPD is no stranger to ambushes. Last year a man allegedly walked up and opened fire on a pair of detectives at the department's Wilshire Division. Luckly the cops escaped with only minor injuries.
Officer Filbert Cuesta was fatally shot in the head by a gang member who ambushed him in 1998.
Meanwhile, the head of New York's police union blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio for supporting peaceful protests and empathizing with black fear of police.
"There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers do every day," Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association told reporters. "That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor."
The organization called Ferguson Action decried such statements, saying, in part:
Unfortunately, there have been attempts to draw misleading connections between this movement and today's tragic events. Millions have stood together in acts of non-violent civil disobedience, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is irresponsible to draw connections between this movement and the actions of a troubled man who took the lives of these officers and attempted to take the life of his ex-partner, before ultimately taking his own. Today's events are a tragedy in their own right. To conflate them with the brave activism of millions of people across the country is nothing short of cheap political punditry.
Other groups embroiled in protests against police shootings of unarmed black men were quick to condemn the murders, too.
The organization #BlackLivesMatter sent a statement to the Weekly and other outlets. It said, in part:
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An eye for an eye is not our vision of justice, and we who have taken to the streets seeking justice and liberation know that we need deep transformation to correct the larger institutional problems of racial profiling, abuse, and violence.
... Now is our moment to advance a dramatic overhaul of policing practices. Now is the time to direct more resources into community mental health services and practices. Now is a moment for empathy and deep listening. Now is the time to end violence against women and trans people. Now is our moment to come together to end state violence.
L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson had this to say tonight:
As President of the Los Angeles City Council, I want to extend deepest condolences to the City of New York, the New York Police Department, and to the family, friends and co-workers of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as they grieve a terrible loss from this senseless tragedy. Our city stands in solidarity with the people of New York. As a society, we cannot allow such attacks on our brave officers who risk their lives in the line of duty every day.