The nationwide anger over the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown appears to have taken a dramatically different turn this afternoon, as two New York police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who may have been seeking retribution for the deaths of those two Black men, based on Instagram messages that were posted several hours before the shootings by a man whose clothing matched those of the shooter.
After the gunman shot the officers–identified as Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos–as they sat in a squad car parked on a Brooklyn street corner, published reports say he ran into a nearby subway station—the G-train station at Myrtle and Willoughby avenues—and shot himself in the head on the crowded subway platform as cops closed in on him.
The pictures of the suspect–identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28–on a stretcher being wheeled into the ambulance show him wearing camouflage pants and blue-and-white sneakers that match the clothing of an Instagram user who posted the message, “I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today,” and “They Take 1 Of Ours … Let’s Take 2 of Theirs.” The post ended with the words “This May Be My Final Post.”
One of the posts was accompanied by a picture of a silver automatic handgun with a wooden handle—with the hashtag RIP Eric Garner and Mike Brown. Another post showed camouflage pants and blue sneakers that matched the clothing the dead gunman was wearing as his body was wheeled from the scene of carnage on a stretcher—though in the Instagram picture the sneakers had no laces, whereas the man on the stretcher had crisp white laces in his sneakers.
The man on the stretcher appeared to be Black, judging by the published pictures.
The Instagram picture of the pants and sneaker was accompanied by what appear to be lyrics from a song by 50 Cent called “Green Lantern.”
“Never had a hot gun on your waist and blood on your shoe…n*gga you ain’t been through what I been through… you not like me and I’m not like you” were the words written on Instagram that are almost identical to a 50 Cent song about a cold-blooded killer who is “gangsta to the core.”
“It’s an execution,” one law enforcement source told the New York Post in describing the manner in which the officers were shot. The gunman reportedly approached them at about 3 p.m. on foot on the corner of Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in Bed-Stuy and shot both of them in the head from the front passenger window. Then he ran down Myrtle and into a subway station, where he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Deputy Chief Kim Royster, an NYPD spokesperson, told the New York Times.
“I heard shooting— four or five shots,” Derrick McKie, 49, described the cop shooting to The Post. “It sounded like from a single gun.”
Fire Department officials told the Times that a 911 call came in around 2:50 p.m., reporting that two people had been shot.
McKie said he saw one of the cops being placed in one of the ambulances that quickly arrived on the scene.
“I seen them putting the cop in the ambulance. He looked messed up,” said McKie, a barber. “He took a high caliber weapon to the face. He was lifeless…I couldn’t see where the holes was at, all I could see was blood. His body was lifeless.”
Charlie Hu, the manager of a liquor store at the same corner, told the Times that he saw two police officers slouched over in the front seat of their patrol car and that at least one of the officers appeared to have been shot in the head.
The Post reported that the alleged gunman was a fugitive who had shot and seriously injured his girlfriend in Baltimore on Saturday morning,
Carmen Jimenez, 32, a social worker from Bedford-Stuyvesant who was on the subway platform when the gunman ran inside, told the Post that “everything happened so quick. We were standing waiting for the G train. We heard arguing from the other end of the platform. It looked like two cops came in there was lots of yelling and they said, ‘Everybody get down.’”
“We tried to get out of there, and there was a lot of shouting, people were screaming, people were trying to run,” said Jimenez, who told the Post she is eight months pregnant. “I threw myself on the floor. I was afraid for my life and afraid for my baby.”
If the Instagram posts did, indeed, come from the same person who killed the cops—and if that man turns out to be African-American—it certainly will add a new element to the national debate about excessive force being used by police against Black men. Those protests have been largely peaceful, but it’s conceivable this could start a cycle of escalating violence on both sides.
The entire tableau was eerily reminiscent of the case of Christopher Dorner, who executed four cops in Los Angeles last year in revenge killings, though they appeared to be because of personal acts against Dorner.