BROOKLYN (PIX11) -- A memorial continued to grow Tuesday as grief continued to pervade New York City, its police force and the families of two officers gunned down while they sat in a patrol car in Brooklyn.
New York police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were ambushed the afternoon of Dec. 20 by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the final act in a rampage that began when he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home outside Baltimore, then made threatening posts online, including a vow to put "wings on pigs" and references to high-profile cases of police officers shooting unarmed black men.
After shooting the officers, Brinsley ran into a subway station and killed himself.
The slayings have raised concerns and tempers in the already tense nationwide debate surrounding police conduct.
About the victims
Ramos, who celebrated his 40th birthday this month, joined the NYPD in 2012 after working as a school security officer. He was a lifelong Brooklyn resident, living in the same Cypress Hills section where he had grown up.
He was married with two sons: a 13-year-old who attends middle school in Brooklyn and another at Bowdoin College in Maine. The younger son, Jaden, posted on Facebook about how much Ramos meant to him.
"He was the best father I could ask for," Jaden Ramos wrote. "It's horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. I will always love you and I will never forget you. RIP Dad."
The 32-year-old Liu, whose family emigrated from China when he was a teenager, had been a member of the police force for seven years, after serving previously in the police auxiliary. He moved this year to a home in Brooklyn's Gravesend section and was married just two months ago.
Liu's parents, from the city of Toishan in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, are still limited in their English. A police sergeant, James Ng, served as translator for them at Brooklyn's Woodhull Hospital, where Liu was taken after the shooting.
"A lot of Chinese families want their children to become doctors and lawyers," said Ng. "He came here and wanted to become a police officer."
A wake for Ramos will be held from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale, New York, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. Ramos' family says he was deeply religious and heavily involved in the church. The funeral will be held there at 10 a.m. Saturday. Liu's family is traveling to the U.S. from China and will decide on arrangements after they arrive, Bratton said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder directed the Justice Department to expedite death benefits to the officers' families, telling officials to inform them of the program and offer help in submitting a claim, the Justice Department said.
Holder wants the families' benefit applications to be expedited, the department said. The benefits are administered by the department's Office of Justice Programs and are paid to relatives of first responders who die in the line of duty.
Ramos' two children are also getting education aid, from a charity founded by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and from Bowdoin College, where one of the officer's sons is a sophomore.
Silver Shield Foundation Chairman Billy Walters said Monday the organization has set aside $40,000 for the educations of Ramos' two sons. After attending an officer's 1982 funeral, Steinbrenner established the foundation with Olympic medalist James E. Fuchs. And Bowdoin said Monday it will cover the education costs of one of Ramos' sons as long as he remains a student there.
Calls for restraint
New York's governor, the city's mayor and others called for restraint amid the heated rhetoric surrounding the shooting of the two officers.
In his first extensive remarks since the killing, Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday for a pause in protests over police conduct as he faced a widening rift with those in a grieving force who accuse him of creating a climate of mistrust that contributed to the execution of two officers. He called for "everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in all due time."
"We are working toward a day where we can achieve greater harmony toward policing and community," he said later. De Blasio had earlier met with the officers' families and later noted, "There's a lot of pain."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged calm through the holidays and respecting families' grief. The governor told WNYC Radio that people are angry on both sides, and that it's time to lower the rhetoric, followed by "rational, sober conversation" later to consider "systemic reform."
Philadelphia's police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, called on all sides to "lower the volume," telling "CBS This Morning" that a union chief's remarks that New York's mayor had blood on his hands were "not helpful at all."
Obama appointed Ramsey to co-chair a taskforce on policing practices after officer-involved deaths of unarmed men in New York and Missouri sparked mass protests and calls for reform.
About the gunman
Emerging details on Brinsley are clarifying a portrait of him as a mentally disturbed loner.
He was accused of firing a stolen gun into a car in an apartment complex parking lot in the Atlanta area in 2011 after a female acquaintance refused to let him inside. In a police report, the woman said that she did not know him well but that her sister was friends with him.
Officers wrote that Brinsley ran when he spotted patrol cars nearing the complex, setting off a foot chase that ended when one officer used a stun gun. Officers said that Brinsley would not raise his right hand, keeping it near his waist after being told to put his hands in the air. Police later found a gun in a storm drain matching the bullet found in the car.
Daniel McCall, an attorney who was appointed to represent Brinsley, then 24, said he remembered little about his client except that took responsibility for damaging the car.
"Some people (appointed an attorney) are difficult to represent because they don't trust you or don't like the system," McCall said. "He was not hard to represent in that sense at all."
In one court document, Brinsley answered "yes" when asked whether he had ever been a "patient in a mental institution or under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist" and had gone up to the 10th grade in school. McCall said he doesn't remember any friends or relatives being involved in his client's defense or noticing any psychiatric problems at the time.
A plea deal required Brinsley to complete a boot camp followed by five years' probation. He failed to complete drug and alcohol or anger and violence evaluations or check in with probation officers, according to court documents. A sheriff's spokeswoman said prosecutors on Dec. 23, 2013, asked for an arrest warrant for probation violations. The warrant still is active.