Although investigators have learned more information about the man who shot and killed two police officers on Saturday, they still have no idea what set off Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley in the first place.
The 28-year-old Brooklyn-born murderer had a long history of problem behavior; born to a Muslim family, he was estranged from his mother for some time.
He was described by police and family as being “very troubled” in his youth: so much so that his own family feared him.
So did his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore County; he shot and nearly killed her at 5:45 am Saturday before stealing her iPhone. He used it to post an anti-government, anti-cop rant on Instagram, and then headed north to New York to kill cops. On earlier posts, he had shown an effigy of a burning American flag.
Police are not sure where he was between 12 noon and 2:47 pm that day, but from then, events moved very fast. He asked bystanders in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn what gangs they were with, told them to “follow him on Instagram” and then said, “Watch what I’m going to do.”
He walked up to the passenger side of a squad car where two police officers were peacefully eating their lunch, pulled a gun and shot both at point-blank range, each in the head. Then he made a run for the nearby subway station, chased by SWAT team members down the stairs. When he got to the bottom, he pointed the gun at himself, and pulled the trigger.
Brinsley was listed in the Georgia arrest database on nine separate charges. They included crimes such as: “use of fighting words,” carrying a concealed weapon, tampering with evidence, theft, receiving stolen property and reckless behavior, as listed in Arrest.org.
Brinsley’s Facebook page – which has been taken down since the murders — carried a photo of a page from the Qur’an, and a quote from it as well: “Strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemies, And others besides, whom Ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.” His comment on the quote was long and rambling, but significantly, he ended it with, “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You.”
Before he made it to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, he bragged on Instagram, “I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours… Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #MikeBrown This May Be My Final Post “ (sic)
The word “pigs” is a ghetto epithet for police officers; the references to Brown and Gardner follow deaths in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York of people, both of black men killed by white police officers while resisting arrest. In both cases, grand juries declined to indict and charge the police officers with murder. The decisions ignited massive violence in Ferguson, and endless protests that began in New York but have since continued nationwide.
Seconds before shooting the two officers, he asked those standing nearby for their gang affiliations, advised them to follow him on social media and then said, “Watch and see what I’m going to do.”
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Sunday that Brinsley had also been in the city earlier in the week; police are still trying to figure out why.
His estranged mother said in a statement she was “deeply sorry for the loss of the two innocent men who were killed.” She offered “sincerest condolences to their families” and added, “I am also grieving for my son.” Brinsley allegedly also tried to hang himself a year ago, according to ABC Channel 7 News.
Hana Levi Julian