Killer of 2 NYC officers had long criminal history

25 PHOTOS
cop memorial + NYPD dead in Brooklyn
See Gallery
Killer of 2 NYC officers had long criminal history
NYPD officers fly banner along Hudson River: "de Blasio, our backs have turned to you" http://t.co/jDhh2LaZh3 http://t.co/CE7slhwqWR
BREAKING: Mayor @BilldeBlasio arrives at funeral for #RafaelRamos #nbc4ny http://t.co/0iVBG9uZkv
Mayor De Blasio Commissioner Bratton and District Attorney Cyrus Vance announce initiative to enhance NYPD mobile communications. 55 Broadway NY, NY. October 23, 2014. (Photo By: Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Brinsley also shot his girlfriend Shaneka Thompson, US Veterans Affairs Officer, before executing NYPD officers http://t.co/EI0C5N9RE1
Police photo of gun #NYPD says Ismaaiyl Brinsley used to kill 2 officers & wound ex-girlfriend in #Baltimore County. http://t.co/J7Ec1rDODQ
WE REMEMBER: Photos of the 2 fallen officers just released http://t.co/jzF454PHJ7 http://t.co/qleo9On65T
This image shared by @KTLA appears to match one of the Instagram images (pants/shoes) http://t.co/eptRyaJQ8p http://t.co/0rBOBmD50R
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: The scene at a shooting where two New York City police officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner > on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: The scene at a shooting where two New York City police officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner > on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: The scene at a shooting where two New York City police officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner > on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: The scene at a shooting where two New York City police officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
at the corner of Tompkins and Vernon http://t.co/kRiaZLo7q7
I am outraged at the killing of 2 police officers in Brooklyn. That is why we stress non violence as the only way to fight for justice.
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21: Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a press conference denouncing the shooting deaths of two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers at the National Action Network on December 21, 2014 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The press conference follows the execution style shooting of officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn on December 20, 2014 where the suspect was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Michael Graae/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: A police officer pauses as he listens to New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference at Woodhull Hospital following the killing of two New York City police officers on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: The scene at a shooting where two New York City police officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner > on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20: The scene at a shooting where two New York City police officers were killed execution style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner > on December 20, 2014 in New York City. The suspect, who killed his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier in the day, was apparently motivated by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: People demsonstate outside of City Hall against police violence at a rally that was supposed to be in support of the New York Police Department (NYPD) on December 19, 2014 in New York City. Like a number of other cities across the country, New York City continues to experience daily protests as activists, residents and area politicians voice their anger over two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: People demsonstate outside of City Hall against police violence at a rally that was supposed to be in support of the New York Police Department (NYPD) on December 19, 2014 in New York City. Like a number of other cities across the country, New York City continues to experience daily protests as activists, residents and area politicians voice their anger over two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: People demonstrate outside of City Hall against police violence at a rally that was supposed to be in support of the New York Police Department (NYPD) on December 19, 2014 in New York City. Like a number of other cities across the country, New York City continues to experience daily protests as activists, residents and area politicians voice their anger over two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

NEW YORK (AP) -- The gunman who fatally ambushed two police officers in their squad car had a long criminal record, a hatred for police and the government and an apparent history of mental instability that included an attempt to hang himself a year ago, authorities said Sunday.

Moments before opening fire, Ismaaiyl Brinsley approached people on the street and asked them to follow him on Instagram, then told them, "Watch what I'm going to do," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

A portrait of the Brooklyn-born gunman emerged as big-city police departments and union leaders around the country warned officers to change up their routines and insist on extra backup a day after Brinsley carried out what he portrayed online as retaliation for the slayings of black men at the hands of white police.

Brinsley was black; the slain officers were Asian and Hispanic.

Investigators were trying to determine if Brinsley had taken part in any protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, whose names he invoked in his online threat, or simply latched on to the cause for the final act in a violent rampage.

They said he traveled frequently between the South and New York, where he fathered a child in Brooklyn, and had been in the city earlier in the week.

Brinsley, 28, had at least 19 arrests in Georgia and Ohio, spent two years in prison for gun possession and had a troubled childhood so violent that his mother was afraid of him, police said. He ranted online about police and the government and expressed "self-despair and anger at himself and where his life was," Boyce said.

Boyce said Brinsley's mother believed he had undiagnosed mental problems and may have been on medication at some point, but detectives were still trying to determine if he had a mental illness.

On Saturday afternoon, Brinsley approached a squad car from behind in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant section and fired four shots, killing Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. He then ran into a subway station and committed suicide.

Hours earlier, Brinsley had 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 the Brown and Garner cases.

Baltimore-area police warned the New York department that Brinsley was in the city and bent on violence. But New York police were still getting the word out when Brinsley struck.

The slayings dramatically escalated tensions that have simmered for months over police killings of blacks.

The siege mentality was evident in several memos circulating among the rank and file at the 35,000-officer New York Police Department, the nation's largest.

A union-generated message warned police officers that they should respond to every radio call with two cars - "no matter what the opinion of the patrol supervisor" - and not make arrests "unless absolutely necessary." The president of the detectives union told members in a letter to work in threes when out on the street, wear bulletproof vests and keep aware of their surroundings.

"Cowards such as yesterday's killer strike when you are distracted and vulnerable," the letter read.

Another directive warned officers in Newark, New Jersey, not to patrol alone and to avoid people looking for confrontations. At the same time, a memo from an NYPD chief asked officers to avoid fanning rage by limiting comments "via all venues, including social media, to expressions of sorrow and condolence."

The slayings come at a tense time. Police nationwide are being criticized for months for their tactics, following Garner's death in a New York officer's chokehold and Brown's fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted in recent weeks after grand juries declined to charge the officers involved.

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio attended Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, where Cardinal Timothy Dolan called for calm. Bratton later visited the families of both officers and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial at the site of the slayings.

"It's a reflection that the community cares about the cops," said Bratton, adding that the memorial was "very appropriate."

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also visited the memorial, calling on protest organizers to "hold off on any type of protest until these officers are laid to rest in a peaceful manner."

The family of slain Officer Rafael Ramos also appealed for peace in the days ahead.

Cousin Ronnie Gonzalez said the family has already forgiven the gunman. "He's in the hands of God now," he said. "We don't believe in vengeance; we just forgive."

At an appearance with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Garner's mother expressed her dismay over the killings of the officers.

"I'm standing here in sorrow about losing those two police officers. That was definitely not our agenda," Gwen Garner said.

"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," she added. "These two police officers lost their lives senselessly and our condolence to the family and we stand with the families."

Two NYPD Officers Shot Dead Inside Police Cruiser in Brooklyn

More on AOL.com
Major rift emerges between NYPD, mayor in wake of officers being shot dead
Police brutality protesters rally at Mall of America
Chicago mayor's teenage son mugged near home

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.