BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Scores of mourners gathered Monday at the makeshift shrine where a pair of New York City police officers were executed in their squad car over the weekend.
“It’s actually really terrible,” said Joyce Galye, who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood where Officers Winjian Liu, 32, and Rafel Ramos, 40, were shot in the head Saturday afternoon by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28.
“It’s an act of revenge, and it’s not going to solve anything,” Galye said.
Some wiped away tears, others prayed. Most stood silently as they leaned against the heavily guarded and barricaded shrine under signs that read, ‘We all mourn with you,” and “Gone but not forgotten,” while several officers donning black bands on their badges stood by.
One man, who asked to remain anonymous, worried how the shooting will affect race relations between members of the community and police.
“It makes it totally worse now,” he said.
Across the street, photographers and journalists encircled a representative from the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, who held an impromptu news conference. “Police are going to be a little more nervous and create more problems for our community,” the New Yorker added.
Another man, who also asked to remain anonymous, blamed a lack of communication between the community and the police department. “That’s what it is,” he said. “They’re not talking.”
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the officers were “ambushed” and “targeted for the uniform.”
After opening fire on the officers, Brinsley fled to a nearby subway station where he fatally shot himself in the head with the same silver, semiautomatic Taurus firearm he used to kill the officers, Bratton said.
Earlier Saturday morning Brinsley had shot and injured his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore County, Md.
Detectives there learned from the woman’s mother that Brinsley had posted pictures on her Instagram account, and that he had ties to Brooklyn.
Though Baltimore authorities had reached out to the NYPD and other agencies, Bratton said, “tragically, this was essentially at the same time as our officers were being ambushed and murdered.”
Bratton said Brinsley walked up behind the police car, “took a shooting stance” and fired his gun several times through the passenger window of the car.
“Officer Liu and Officer Ramos never had the opportunity to draw their weapons,” the commissioner added. “They may never have actually seen their assailant, their murderer.”
The officers were stationed in front of a housing project in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn as part of a “crime-reduction strategy” because of complaints of violence in the area.
Officers had also been patrolling the station where Brinsley later took his own life. There was no sign of any commotion on the platforms Monday afternoon.
The executions signal tensions coming to a head after a grand jury recently declined to indict the police officer who choked an unarmed man to death on Staten Island this past July.
Video footage of that altercation shows Eric Garner gasping “I can’t breathe” 11 times before passing out in officer Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold.
The killing by Ferguson, Mo., police of 18-year-old Michael Brown occurred about a month later on Aug. 9. A grand jury had declined to indict the Brown’s killer, officer Darren Wilson, less than two weeks before Pantaleo was cleared in Staten Island.
With Attorney General Eric Holder vowing a federal investigation into Garner’s death, which a medical examiner classified as a homicide, controversy swirled in the wake of the grand-jury announcement when Mayor Bill de Blasio described his experience as the father of biracial children.
The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association condemned the remarks de Blasio made as throwing police officers “under the bus.” Saturday’s killings on the heels of those remarks have led some to circulate a petition calling for de Blasio’s resignation.
Bratton said on Sunday that he has received “numberless messages of support” from fellow police commissioners, chiefs and sheriffs.
Civic leaders called for peace and an end to violence.
The attorney general described the shootings as “an unspeakable act of barbarism.”
“This cowardly attack underscores the dangers that are routinely faced by those who protect and serve their fellow citizens,” Holder said in a statement. “As a nation we must not forget this as we discuss the events of the recent past.”
Over the weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered state buildings to fly at half-staff.
“This deplorable act of violence is the opposite of what New York is and what New Yorkers believe in,” Cuomo said, praising the 34,000-member NYPD as heroes who “run toward danger when all of our instincts tell us to run away.”
Several candlelight vigils and marches were held over the weekend, while sports teams like the New York Rangers, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Jets held moments of silence for the officers before each of their games.
The New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which has said de Blasio has blood on his hands, has the names of the fallen officers on its website.
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