New York City’s police commissioner says the gunman who ambushed and killed two officers had threatened online that he would “put wings on pigs”.
Commissioner Bill Bratton choked up at a news conference as he talked about the fatal shootings of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn.
Mr Bratton said gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and wounded his former girlfriend in Baltimore earlier on Saturday and made posts on her Instagram account. Mr Bratton did not specify the contents of the posts but two officials told The Associated Press that Brinsley posted about shooting two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Authorities say Brinsley fatally shot himself after killing the officers.
According to the officials, Brinsley, 28, wrote on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.”
Police said Brinsley approached the passenger window of a marked police car and opened fire, striking officers Ramos and Liu in the head. The officers were on special patrol doing crime reduction work in Brooklyn.
“They were, quite simply, assassinated – targeted for their uniform,” Mr Bratton said.
The sudden and extraordinary violence stunned the city, prompted a response from holidaying President Barack Obama and escalated weeks of simmering ill-will between police and their critics following grand jury decisions not to indict officers in the deaths of Mr Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri. Garner and Brown were black; the officers who killed them are white.
Demonstrators around the country have staged protests following the grand jury decisions.
The New York police union head declared that there was “blood on the hands” of protesters and the city’s mayor.
Brinsley ran off after the shooting. Officers chased him to a nearby subway station, where he shot himself in the head. A silver handgun was recovered at the scene, Mr Bratton said.
“This may be my final post,” Brinsley wrote on the internet alongside an image of a handgun. The post had more than 200 likes but also had many others admonishing his statements.
The Rev Al Sharpton said Garner’s family has no connection to the suspect and denounced the violence. Brown’s family condemned the shooting in a statement posted online by their attorney. “We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated.
“We must work together to bring peace to our communities,” the family said.
Brinsley was black; the officers were Asian and Hispanic, police said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said; the “Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy. It is an attack on all of us.” Mr Obama, in Hawaii, said: “I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”
A police officer was also shot and killed in Tarpon Springs, Florida. A suspect was arrested.