It's too early to tell whether the murder of two on-duty police officers by a 28-year-old gunman was committed in retaliation for the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after he was put in an apparent chokehold by a white officer.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said Ismaaiyl Brinsley fatally shot the officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, as they sat in a police car on Saturday in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
"Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight," President Obama said in a statement released late Saturday, "and for that, there is no justification."
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce provided more details about Brinsley and the events leading up to the shooting on Sunday. Here are some key points:
- Brinsley approached to two bystanders just before firing four shots at Ramos and Liu, boasting, "Watch what I'm going to do."
- The shooter has roots in Brooklyn; Brinsley's mother and the estranged mother of his child reside there.
- Investigators are looking into questions about Brinsley's mental health; he tried to hang himself last year and may have been on medication for a mental health condition, Boyce said.
- Authorities are still looking heavily at social media for clues; they've also gathered video from the crime scene and identified 10 eyewitnesses.
On Sunday, Jaden Ramos, the 13-year-old son of Officer Ramos, posted a series of emotional Facebook messages:
Officials in Florida also said a police officer was shot and killed Sunday morning near Tampa. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that a suspect was in custody. The officer was identified as 45-year-old Charles "Charlie K" Kondek, a 17-year veteran of the local department and a former NYPD officer. Authorities have not commented on a motive.
Fusion's Tim Pool took this picture of a makeshift memorial near the site of the shooting in Brooklyn:
Here is what we else know about the killings of the two New York police officers:
- Brinsley shot himself in the head at a nearby subway stop after killing the officers. He traveled to New York from Baltimore, where police said he shot and wounded a former girlfriend.
- The ex-girlfriend's mother saw on social media that Brinsley was headed to New York City and alerted Baltimore County police. However, the NYPD said it received a faxed alert from Baltimore around 2:45pm ET, about the same time the killings were committed.
- Officer Liu got married two months ago. Ramos was also married, NYPD officials said.
- Liu was a seven-year veteran, and Ramos became an officer in 2012.
- According to the New York Times, Brinsley had a long rap sheet that included robbery and carrying a concealed gun.
- The last time an NYPD officer was killed on duty was in 2011.
- Al Sharpton and Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the killings and said any attempt to use Garner's death to carry out violence against police was reprehensible.
- Ferguson activists also condemned the killings.
- De Blasio said that while investigators are still looking into the killings, "it is clear this was an assassination." New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said the officers were "targeted for their uniforms.”
Here's what we don't know:
- We don't know the suspect's motivation. Although the Instagram posts of Brinsley republished by the New York Post have hashtags for Eric Garner and Michael Brown, the motivation for the murders remains unclear. While the gunman committed a brutal deliberate act, there is no confirmation that he acted to avenge Garner or Brown's deaths.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.
Nuria Net is a founding editor at Fusion and now Social Storytelling Editor working on our Snapchat Discover channel. Co-founder, former editor-in-chief of Remezcla.com. Net is her real last name; Lechuga is her DJ name.