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Questions Linger In Fatal Shooting Of New York City Police Officers

ARUN RATH, HOST:

There's grief and outrage not just in New York City, but across the country over the cold-blooded killing of two police officers in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. The man who shot them had suggested he was acting in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police. Today, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was having to fend off criticism that his own policy somehow played a part in yesterday's shooting. We're joined now by NPR's Jim Zarroli in New York. Jim, did you learn anything new about the shootings of the two officers today?

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: While the police had a briefing this afternoon. And what we know is that the suspect is Ismaaiyl Brinsley was 28. He had a pretty long arrest record. His mother actually told police she was afraid of him because he was violent. Early yesterday morning, he shot and wounded a former girlfriend in Owings Mills, Maryland. He then took a bus to New York City and ended up in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. He walked up to a police cruiser, which was parked outside a housing project and shot the two police officers inside. Their names were Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Brinsley then ran into a nearby subway station and shot and killed himself.

RATH: Now, there's been a lot of talk about Brinsley's motives. What do we actually know about his motives for killing the two officers?

ZARROLI: Well, we know what he said in social media postings before the killings. He had expressed a lot of anger over the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island. Then yesterday, he posted, today, I'm going to put wings on pigs. He also said, they took one of ours, we take two of theirs. The also said, this may be my last posting, which, you know, in fact, it was.

It came out today that police in Maryland had seen the postings and sent a warning to New York police. Unfortunately, it arrived just as the police were being killed. Of course, this all in the context of a lot of public anger toward police right now in New York, especially over the death of Eric Garner, who was essentially choked to death by police attempted to arrest him. A grand jury looked into the killing, decided not to indict the officer involved, and there have been regular protests ever since.

RATH: And within that context you're talking about, even before what happened yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio had a pretty tense relationship with the police. Can you talk about how he's responding to the killings?

ZARROLI: Yeah, he has. He's doing a lot of things that mayors do in situations like this. He went to see the officers' families. He's, you know, made some moving statements about the deaths, but it really hasn't helped him. He has been the target of a lot of the anger over the killings of the officers. When he went to the hospital where the police officers had been taken, some of the officers who had gathered there actually turned their backs on him as he passed by. Then today, there were some pretty angry comments from former police commissioner Ray Kelly and former governor George Pataki, all suggesting that his policies had somehow contributed to the shootings.

RATH: And what you think's behind this antipathy - that people are using words like - saying the mayor has blood on his hands?

ZARROLI: Yeah, he's had just a testy relationship with police. He came in promising to end some of the procedures that were very unpopular with minorities, especially the stop-and-frisk policy. Then he made some comments about the killing of Eric Garner. He said he had had to have with a talk with his teenage son, who is biracial, about how to interact with police safely. Now, he's trying to ease some of the animosity and tension in the city, but there's - a lot of the anger is being directed toward him.

RATH: NPR's Jim Zarroli in New York. Jim, thanks very much.

ZARROLI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.