NYPD officer killings hit home for Cary man as authorities piece together killer's life
Posted December 21, 2014
Updated December 22, 2014
Cary, N.C. — Moments after two New York City police officers were killed in what has been described as an assassination, Bob Young’s phone started ringing.
Young, a retired NYC officer, began his career at the 84th precinct, the Brooklyn, N.Y. post that officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were assigned to.
“I walked that foot post,” said Young, who lives in Cary. “I walked by that building many times. I’ve seen the scene where the shooting occurred. I’ve been there.”
Ramos and Liu were sitting in their marked patrol car near Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood on Saturday when Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, approached their vehicle from behind and shot four rounds into the officers’ heads and upper bodies, officials said.
Ramos, who was in the driver’s seat, was a father of two who recently turned 40. Liu, the passenger, was married two months ago, according to news reports.
Moments before the shooting, Brinsley approached people on the street and said “watch what I’m going to do,” said NYC Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce during a Sunday afternoon media briefing.
About a dozen people witnessed the shooting, including two utility workers who pursued Brinsley into a nearby subway station, Boyce said.
Brinsley shot and killed himself in the subway station as officers closed in on him, officials said.
Authorities said Brinsley, angered by the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore before taking a bus to New York City. Brinsley dated the woman for about a year and had a key to her apartment that he should not have had, Boyce said.
“She didn’t want anyting to do with him, and that caused the argument,” he said.
Saturday’s shootings comes amid tensions between police and communities of color nationwide after the deaths of Brown, an unarmed man who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, and Garner, who died after being placed in chokehold by officers in Staten Island, N.Y. Brown and Garner were black and the officers involved in their deaths are white. Grand juries in both cases decided not to indict the involved officers, which sparked demonstrations across the country.
The protests have since turned to calls for changes in how law enforcement interacts with the public, especially in minority communities. Using the rallying call “Black Lives Matter,” protesters have shut down highways, held “die-ins" on college campuses and displayed slogans of support. Some have compared the effort to the civil rights movement.
On Sunday, family members, elected officials and community members gathered in front of Ramos’ childhood home in Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills neighborhood.
“We want to send a message out. We don’t want the city of New York to think that everyone is against the police department,” said Juan Rodriguez, president of the 75th precinct community council who knew Ramos for over 20 years. “Everyone with me tonight is from the NYPD, and that’s the clear message we’re sending.”
Family members wiped away tears during the press conference, where city and state elected officials called the shooting “cowardly” and “senseless.”
“I hope and pray that we can reflect on this tragic lost of lives that have occurred as we can move forward and find an amiciable path to a peacful co-existance,” said Lucy Ramos, an aunt who spoke during the briefing.
Born in Brooklyn, Brinsley went to high school in New Jersey and often travelled between New York and Georgia, where his sister lives, said Boyce, the chief of detectives.
Brinsley had a troubled childhood to the point that his mother was afraid of him, according to news reports. He also had nearly two dozen arrests in Georgia and Ohio, news reports said. Brinsley’s past social media posts include rants about police and govenment, Boyce said.
Investigators spent Sunday tracing Brinsley’s final steps. They were also determining if he suffered from mental illness.
“We’re looking back to see where he was in the week,” Boyce said. “We believe he was in New York earlier this week.”
Brinsley recently said in an Instagram post that he was heading to New York to attack police officers. A warning from Baltimore officials arrived nearly the same time as the shootings, officials said.
According to media reports, under the picture of a firearm, the post read: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours......Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMikeBrown.”
Ramos and Liu never drew their weapons, NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton said on Saturday. He added that the officers may have never seen Brinsley.
The families of Garner and Brown, as well as civil rights leaders and President Barack Obama, condemed the killings.
“It should not lead to this,” said Young, the retired officer. “This is a despicable act.”
Young didn’t know the slain officers but said they’re bonded by the 84th precinct.
“I called an officer who lives in Charleston, he’s a good friend of mine, and he was crying on the phone because it hurt him,” he said. "It hurt him deeply."