The killing of two New York police officers on Saturday as they sat in a patrol car on a Brooklyn street is a reminder that the men and women who put on a badge face unthinkable risk every day.
It’s also a reminder that the protesters in New York and the rest of the country must not demonize police officers as they call attention to the people who have lost their lives while being arrested by law enforcement. The lives of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos – and all police officers – are just as precious of those of the people they are sworn to protect.
Sacramentans can well understand the anguish and anger New Yorkers must feel this week, having lived through a similar ordeal just two months ago. In another senseless double murder, two local sheriff’s deputies were shot to death by someone who traveled to our city. We also understand that it is the most human of all response to a horrible crime to cast about for a cause, some reason we can understand. What could possibly induce someone kill two people he didn’t even know?
Sometimes there is no villain other than the villain.
What is not an understandable reaction to tragedy is when opportunists shamefully use it to bludgeon their political enemies.
Sadly, some have done just that. The head of the NYPD police union said on Sunday said New York City Hall had blood on its hands because Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t support the police enough during recent protests. Those mass demonstrations were prompted by the death of Eric Garner after a NYPD officer used a chokehold on him during an arrest.
Then former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani took to Fox News to point a finger at de Blasio, and that usual political punching bag, President Barack Obama. According to Giuliani, they both contributed to “an atmosphere of police hatred.”
Giuliani didn’t say how exactly this was achieved, probably because any attempt at facts would undercut his statement. Indeed, Obama has been exceedingly careful when it comes to comments about Michael Brown and the Ferguson, Mo., protests and riots. Here’s an example from a speech in August, after Ferguson first blew up.
“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice,” the president said. That’s hardly seditious.
As New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton pointed out, this crime was connected to the protests, though he called it a “spinoff,” a term that correctly characterized the killings as incidental to the protests. Insanity spins off reality to construct its dark fantasy. Considering the shooter’s history, something would have set him off eventually.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley was a bad dude and almost certainly mentally ill. Even the 28-year-old’s mother was afraid of him. Brinsley has a rap sheet as long as his arm that included violence and weapons violations. He had been institutionalized and tried to commit suicide.
Police have released enough information about Brinsley to paint a terrifying picture of a person who should not have been able to obtain a firearm to use on police officers or anyone else. Brinsley also reportedly shot his girlfriend in Baltimore County before he traveled to New York.
Brinsley is dead by his own hand, so authorities will never get to plumb the depths of the insanity that explains why he thought justice would be served by killing two police officers sitting in a parked car. But of this we can be sure: He did not shoot two cops because of what politicians may or may not have said in public.
He killed them because he was sick and because he had a gun.