BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn (PIX11) -- Mourners across New York City held a candlelight vigil, one day after two NYPD officers were slain in cold blood in their squad car in Brooklyn by a cop-hating killer who later turned the gun on himself.
As the investigation continued on Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, facing deepening tensions with New York's Finest, attended Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Sunday with Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
"Our beloved city needs the light, and the wisdom, the peace, the healing and the consolation that only the Lord can give as we mourn the murders of two of our finest, Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos," Dolan said.
The family and friends of Officer Ramos will be holding a press conference Sunday at 5 p.m. in Brooklyn and a city-wide candlelit vigil is planned for 6 p.m.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams spoke at a makeshift memorial at the scene where the officers were slain, and called for Eric Garner protesters to hold off on demonstrations until the officers were laid to rest.
The two police officers were shot and killed execution-style Saturday afternoon by a killer who had a "strong bias" against police.
"They were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniforms, and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a news conference on the deaths of Officers Liu and Ramos.
They were murdered at about 2:47 p.m. outside 98 Tompkins Ave., both in full uniform while sitting in their patrol car. Ramos was in the drivers seat and Liu was in the front seat beside him.
According to Bratton, the killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, assumed a shooting stance and fired his weapon several times through front passenger window. They never had the chance to draw their weapons; indeed, they may never had seen their assailant.
Other cops followed him as he fled, entering a G train subway station, Myrtle-Willoughby Avs, and went to westbound subway platform.
Brinsley shot himself in the head with a silver, semi-automatic firearm, which was recovered near the body. He was transported to Brooklyn Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Saturday morning, Brinsley shot his former girlfriend and seriously wounded her in the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills. Brinsley was posting disturbing information on Instagram, Bratton said, which had a strong anti-police bias.
"I'm Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours...Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” Brinsley wrote in one of his Instagram postings. He posted more disturbing messages as he headed north to New York City.
He may have had associations with East Flatbush, Brooklyn, Bratton said.
Bratton said Brinsley had a connection to Brooklyn but it would not be revealed at this time.
At 2:45 Baltimore Police sent a warning flier to NYPD, but it didn't come in time. This was at the same time that the ambush and murder happened. "The tragedy here was that just as the warning was coming in, the murder was occurring," Bratton said.
"Our city is in mourning, our hearts are heavy," de Blasio said at a news conference with Bratton. "There is a sadness that is very very hard to describe," said the mayor, who said it's a time to support the families, not explore the political ramifications of what happened. That said, police officers turned their back on de Blasio when he arrived at the news conference, as seen in an exclusive PIX11 video.
The shooting happened just before 3 p.m., Saturday at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
CNN, quoting police, said one of the officers was a two-year veteran of the force; the second had seven years on the job.
"We met the family members. We met the parents of Officer Liu, the woman he recently married. We met the wife of Officer Ramos. We met his 13-year-old son, who couldn’t comprehend what had happened to his father," de Blasio said at the news conference.
The slain officers were normally assigned to South Brooklyn's 84th Precinct, but were in Bed-Stuy Saturday working as a part of a "critical response" detail in an area with higher crime rates.
The officers were taken to Woodhull Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
"The grief that the mayor and I just experienced with the families... it's not easy," Bratton said.
Several officials and other public figures including President Barack Obama, Governor Andrew Cuomo and political activist Rev. Al Sharpton have spoken out about the shooting.
"Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification," said Obama. "The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day -- and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day."
"Tonight, the thoughts and prayers of all New Yorkers are with the family and friends of New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were assassinated in the line of duty. This deplorable act of violence is the opposite of what New York is and what New Yorkers believe in," said Cuomo.
Sharpton released a statement after speaking with the family of Eric Garner about Saturday's shooting.
"We have stressed at every rally and march that anyone engaged in any violence is an enemy to the pursuit of justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown," said Sharpton.
Sharpton and Garner's family will hold a press conference Sunday at the National Action Network.
With tensions high between police and the community after weeks of protests targeting the police, officials were stunned by Saturday's developments.
"This could not have come at a worse time," Councilman Rober Cornegy told PIX11 News.
The horrific shootings come at a time of heightened tensions between police and the community following a Staten Island grand jury's decision in the Eric Garner case. The jury declined to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Garner during an arrest in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, in July.
For weeks, the city has been roiled by mass demonstrations against the grand jury decision, as well as the NYPD and its strained relationship with the community.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch expressed his outrage about the shooting at a press conference after Bratton and de Blasio spoke.
“Those that incited violence on this street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did everyday,” Lynch said at a press conference. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”
Rev. Al Sharpton denounced the killings at a Sunday press conference alongside the mother and widow of Eric Garner.
"From the beginning, we have stressed that this is a pursuit of justice to make the system work fairly for everyone," Sharpton said. "This is not about trying to take things [into] our own hands."
"I'm standing here in sorrow about losing those 2 police officers," Garner's mother Gwen Carr said. "That was definitely not our agenda. We are going in peace, and anyone who's standing with us, we want you to not use Eric Garner's name for violence, because we are not about that. These 2 police officers lost their lives senselessly."
Garner's widow Esaw asked protesters to remain peaceful. "My husband was not a violent man, so we don't want any violence connected to his name," she said.
The NYPD tweeted for people to keep the officers in their prayers shortly after the shooting.
The NYPD Special Victim Unit is offering a reward for anyone with information about the shooting.
The gunman's motives aren't clear yet.
Bratton said the gunman has ties to Georgia and Baltimore, Maryland.
CNN reports that the officers were not engaging the shooter in any way when they were shot. Police are investigating social media activity leading up to the shooting.
The double homicide echoed tragic chapters in NYPD history, including the murder of rookie Police Officer Eddie Byrnes in 1988. The last police officer to be shot in the line of duty was Peter Figoski in December 2011.
Bratton stressed they do not see a link to any terrorist groups at this point in the investigation.