NEW YORK (AFP) — Two New York uniformed police officers were assassinated in their patrol car in Brooklyn in broad daylight Saturday by a lone gunman who subsequently killed himself, officials confirmed.
“Today, two of New York’s finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” police commissioner Bill Bratton told a news conference. “They were quite simply assassinated.”
The shootings, just days before Christmas, follow weeks of protests condemning a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers and decisions by grand juries not to prosecute those responsible.
The two officers were shot at 2:50 p.m. at the corner of Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in Brooklyn’s gentrifying neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, police spokesman Sergeant Lee Jones told AFP.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and police commissioner Bill Bratton were due to later hold a press conference at Brooklyn’s Woodhull Hospital, where local media reported that the two officers died.
Police reserved further official comment until then.
But various city police precincts wrote messages on Twitter saying that the two officers had died, offering condolences and prayers for their fallen colleagues.
“My thoughts are with the families of the NYPD officers shot in the line of duty, in an act of horrific violence,” wrote New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “We all mourn this tragedy.”
The two officers were shot dead while sitting in their patrol car, local media reported. The assailant fled on foot before shooting himself in the head in a subway station. He was later pronounced dead.
“People are pretty shaken up,” eyewitness Mike Isaacs told CNN.
“The mood is pretty freaked out, you know, a few people were saying it could be anyone.”
Social media boast
New York Daily News named the attacker as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, purportedly a gang member from Baltimore who first shot and wounded his girlfriend there before driving to Brooklyn.
Local media said the shooter boasted on his purported Instagram account just hours before the attack that he would kill police officers.
“They Take 1 Of Ours… Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” read a comment next to a photo of a silver handgun, referencing the deaths at the hands of police of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Garner, an unarmed father of six, died after police held him in a chokehold while he was being arrested for selling illegal cigarettes in New York last July.
Brown, an 18-year-old in the Ferguson suburb of St Louis, Missouri, was shot dead by a police officer in August, sparking months of protests.
Grand jury decisions not to indict either white officer responsible triggered mass protests in New York and other US cities.
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who has used Garner and Brown’s deaths to campaign for sweeping police reform, said he was outraged by Saturday’s killings.
He said his National Action Network saw non-violence as the only way to fight for justice.
“An eye for an (eye) leaves the whole world blind. We all at NAN express our prayers and condolences to the families of the 2 NYC officers,” he wrote on Twitter.
The New York Post said the officers were shot at point-blank range as they wore their uniforms and sat in their marked police car while working overtime as part of a counterterrorism drill.
“I heard shooting — four or five shots,” Derrick McKie, 49, told the Post. “It sounded like from a single gun,” he said.
“I seen them putting the cop in the ambulance. He looked messed up,” added McKie, a barber. “He took a high-caliber weapon to the face. He was lifeless.
Widespread dissatisfaction in relations between police and blacks have been inflamed not just by the Brown and Garner deaths.
Last month, a rookie police officer fatally shot Akai Gurley, an unarmed 28-year-old black man, in the stairwell of a Brooklyn apartment building.
A 12-year-old black boy holding a toy gun was also shot dead by police officers in a playground in Ohio in November.
“It’s been sort of strange around here. Pretty tense since the protests have been occurring in New York City,” said Isaacs, the witness.
“And so, you know, everyone’s pretty shaken up and just trying to figure out what happened.”