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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton Deliver Remarks at Woodhull Hospital, Take Q&A

December 20, 2014

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Police Commissioner Bill Bratton: The Mayor and I have just come from visiting with the families of our two murdered police officers.

It's a time of great emotion and great passion. And so, please bear with us as we try to bring some sense to the madness that occurred this afternoon in the streets of Brooklyn. It's sometimes difficult to find the words to speak to events like those that occurred today, and try to make sense of them – but we'll try.

Today, two of New York's Finest were shot and killed, with no warning, no provocation. They were, quite simply, assassinated – targeted for their uniform, and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.

At approximately 2:47 pm today, Police Office Wenjian Liu and Police Officer Rafael Ramos were assigned to a critical response vehicle – CRVs, as we refer to them – in the confines of the 79 Precinct. While a CRV is traditionally used for counterterrorism operations, this past May, we also assigned some vehicles to housing developments throughout the city – developments that had seen an increase in violence in the early part of the year, like the Tompkins Houses, where the officers were stationed.

While sitting in a marked NYPD police car, in full uniform, both were ambushed and murdered in front of 98 Tompkins Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, New York City. Both officers are assigned to the 84 Precinct, but were posted at this location as part of a department crime reduction strategy to address complaints of violence in the area of the housing developments in that area.

Officer Ramos was in the driver's seat, and Officer Liu was in the front passenger seat beside him. According to witness statements, the suspect, who has been identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the police car. He took a shooting stance on the passenger side and fired the weapon – his weapon – several times through the front passenger window, striking both officers in the head.

Officer Liu and Officer Ramos never had the opportunity to draw their weapons. They may never have actually even seen their assailant – their murderer.

Other officers, who were also assigned to the CRV post, immediately pursued Brinsley southbound on Tompkins Avenue. Brinsley then turned westbound on Myrtle Avenue and fled into the Myrtle Avenue and Willoughby Street – the G train subway station. He proceeded down the stairs onto the westbound subway platform. While on the platform, Brinsley shot himself in the head – took his own life. A silver semi-automatic [inaudible] firearm was recovered on the subway platform near the suspect's body. Officers Liu and Ramos were transported here, to Woodhill – Woodhull Hospital. Despite every effort to save their lives, both officers tragically succumbed to their injuries.

On behalf of the New York City Police Department, I extend my deepest condolences to the Liu and the Ramos families, and the families within the NYPD. Both officers paid the ultimate sacrifice today while protecting the communities they serve. The suspect was transported to Brooklyn Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

We are currently continuing to investigate this incident. I want to thank, at this time, Dr. Raju and his trauma staff for their valiant efforts – but unsuccessful efforts – to resuscitate our officers.

Some background information relative to the events leading up to the murder of our two officers today – at approximately 5:45 this morning, in Baltimore County, Maryland, a female, believed to be Brinsley's former girlfriend, was shot and seriously wounded by Brinsley at her residence. Baltimore County detectives later received information from the victim's mother that Brinsley was posting on the victim's instagram account. Further information was developed indicating that Brinsley may have had associations with the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn. At approximately 2:45 this afternoon, Baltimore authorities sent a fax – a warning flyer, a wanted flyer – to the NYPD and other agencies.

Tragically, this was essentially at the same time as our officers were being ambushed and murdered by Brinsley. Tragically too, this is not the first time this department has seen such violence. Seven times since 1972, we have seen partners murdered together, often in incidents such as this – mindless assassinations without warning. Our officers know this, from memorial walls on our precincts and headquarters, and from the stories they hand down. Nevertheless, they do what we expect of them. They grieve, they mourn, but then they go out on the streets of this city and work to keep it safe, every day and every night. We have never, and never will, forget that mission. We will never forget the two young men who lost their lives today.

Mr. Mayor?

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you, commissioner. Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy. We lost two good men who devoted their lives to protecting all of us. Officer Ramos, Officer Liu died in the line of duty, protecting the city they loved. Our hearts go out to their families, to their comrades in arms at the 84 Precinct, to the larger family of the NYPD. We honor the EMTs, the doctors, the nurses, everyone at Woodhull who tried valiantly to save their lives and couldn't. I want to thank everyone who came here today to support these families that are in such pain right now. All the leadership of the NYPD, the elected officials who are here – I thank them for coming here in solidarity with these grieving families and our police department. Although we are still learning the details, it's clear that this was an assassination – that these officers were shot, execution-style – particularly despicable act, which goes at the very heart of our society and our democracy. When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on all of us. It's an attack on everything we hold dear. We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil. They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency. Therefore, every New Yorker should feel they, too, were attacked. Our entire city was attacked by this heinous individual.

Even though the assailant took his own life, we'll be vigilant for any information about anyone else who might be involved. And this is a point to make clear to all my fellow New Yorkers – that any time anyone has information that there might be an attack on our police, there might be an act of violence directed at any police officer, it is imperative that that be reported immediately. You heard the commissioner outline the tragic timeline, but anybody who sees a posting on the internet or any other indication of an intention to attack the police must report it immediately. Call 9-1-1. Report it to a police officer. But whatever the situation, that information must get into the hands of the police immediately, so we can protect the lives of our police officers and, in fact, of all of us, since they protect us.

There is a sadness that is very, very hard to describe. Commissioner Bratton has felt it many times. I have felt it many times. 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.

And with other public servants, and with leaders of this police department, we prayed over the bodies of these two officers. And I ask that all New Yorkers pray for them, pray for their families. It's a moment of terrible loss and it's a moment when we must all come together to support these families, to support healing, and to be thankful that there are heroes among us, like Officer Ramos and Officer Liu.

I’d like to say a few words in Spanish as well.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

Commissioner Bratton: We can take a few questions from you. Yes.

Question: [inaudible] how does this department [inaudible]? What are the emotions [inaudible]?

Commissioner Bratton: There is no more emotional time in the life of a police officer in policing than when a death occurs. And a death of this nature – an assassination – that – it’s unlike any other type of emotion – that – it’s hard to deal with. It’s hard to get your arms around. 

The grief that the mayor and I just experienced, with what the family is going through, and then I met with the officers in the 84 Precinct, the partner officers of the two deceased officers – it’s not easy. Not easy at all. And I’ve dealt with this too many times over 44 years. You always hope that you’re never going to experience it again. And the idea of a double – double tragedy that – you know, here we are, coming into Christmas week, where we celebrate a birth – a birth that has changed history for 2000 years, and instead, this week, now, in this city, in this department, we’re going to be mourning. We’re going to be dealing with the death of two young men that fulfilled their dreams to be police officers. One officer only married – Officer Liu – two months ago. The other officer – Officer Ramos – was a school safety officer for many years before finally fulfilling his dream to become a New York City police officer three years ago – just had his 40th birthday on December 12.

And, you try to put your arm around it, you try to make sense out of it – and you really can't. And it's going be a tough time for the men and women of this department, a tough time for the New York City Police Department, but they'll go out and they'll do what we expect of them since that's what cops do. And it's not easy.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: There were postings apparently by the individual, we believe, on Instagram – the Instagram account of the woman that was wounded in Baltimore. That part of our investigation will be to determine what was the motivations to the best of our understanding. So those Instagram postings, which were very anti-police, based on the briefing I had  we'll also seek to go back over time into this suspect's life as to whether there were other postings, whether he had accounts of his own. The ones that we're aware of this afternoon as he was coming toward New York, those are part of multiple investigations that are now underway to try and make sense out of what was his motivation to come to New York and murder two New York City police officers.

Question: [inaudible] it seems that he came to New York with the sole purpose of assassinating [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: That is a part of what we will attempt to determine. Some of the postings, which I understand that are out there, would seem to indicate that he had a very strong bias against police officers, and as to whether that was the principal motivation or whatever went on with him and the girlfriend this morning – we will try as part of our investigation to put together what was the actual motivation.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: I'm sorry?

Question: [inaudible] Can you elaborate on the [inaudible] ...

Commissioner Bratton: His latest residence, as best we can determine it, is in Georgia. But he's an individual who appears to move around. He's got a girlfriend in Baltimore. He comes to New York to murder two police officers. He does have some connectivity to Brooklyn, but I won't go into the specifics of that at this time. We're still trying to really put together his movements and where he's been over these last number of days and weeks and months.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: Excuse me. One at a time, please.

Question: [inaudible] Looking at [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: We have no sense at this time that there's any connectivity to terrorist groups, an act of terrorism. We see nothing of that nature at this particular time. Commissioner Miller and his people are certainly looking at that aspect of it. Chief Boyce, Chief of Detectives, it will be his entity that will be leading the criminal investigation, but we're not seeing a connectivity to any organized entity at this time. We're really trying to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can about this individual.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: Well, we're always concerned with that. 

You may recall, several weeks ago, after four young officers were attacked by the individual with the hatchet, our investigation there clearly indicated that that was an act of terrorism – that that individual had become inspired to commit that act by continual canvassing of websites, particularly ISIS-related websites, increasingly over the last couple of weeks of his life. And we've put out notices to our officers, similar to what the federal government has been putting out, about the growing concern of lone-wolf types of attacks, to the extent that, encouraging our officers to work in pairs, increasing security around our station houses. 

So, one of the unfortunate realities of policing is that, you put that blue uniform on and you become part of that thin blue line between us and anarchy, and from time to time we are victimized by it, as certainly happened today. As the specific motivation, hopefully, we'll be able to determine that, but at the moment that's what we're still attempting to investigate.

Question: [inaudible] for the mayor. Do you think this attack is going to [inaudible]?

Mayor: I think this is a time to think about these families. I don't think it's a time for politics or political analysis. It's a time to think about families that just lost their father, their husband, their son. We met those families – and what we should be thinking about now is how to support these families and how to ensure that not only our communities are safe, but our officers are safe. 

That's why I'm saying there is something important here. This individual, this horrible assassin, put information on the internet. It was a very, very brief timeline, but there may be other people posting things like this, and what we should focus on is if anybody knows of anybody who puts information like that on the internet or says it to someone, it has to be reported right away so we can protect our officers, protect, again, our entire civilization.

Question: [inaudible] can you confirm if there have been any other [inaudible] especially last few weeks [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: Nothing of this nature, at least in terms of some of the postings that this individual may have made this afternoon. 

Let's face it, there's been, not just in New York but throughout the country, a very strong anti-police, anti-criminal-justice-system, ant-societal set of initiatives underway. And one of the unfortunate aspects sometimes is some people get caught up in these and go in directions they should not.

As to whether this individual was part of any of that, part of any demonstrations here, Atlanta where we believe his last residence, that's part of the investigation to determine what has he been doing these last several weeks and try to put some sanity to the madness that occurred here this afternoon on the streets of Brooklyn.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: Yes. Actually we can give that out separately.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: Okay. Okay.

Question: [inaudible] next few weeks is there gonna be any [inaudible]?

Commissioner Bratton: The protocols that we put in place several weeks ago, and are looking to as much as possible, continually remind our officers about the importance of watching out for each other, if you will.

The pleas the mayor is making to the public that if they're aware of somebody who's sentiments are starting to go over the line from just talking about it to actually threatening or seeking to carry out attacks against not only police but other officials. This is that idea, in some respects, it's like the Homeland Security advisory, “See something, say something.”

And it doesn't just relate to terrorism. It relates to so many other issues. The tragedy here was that, just as the warning was coming in, the murder was occurring. And there's another irony here that we hope within a year – the mayor has made available a huge amount of money recently that we did several press conferences – that we hope to equip every officer in the department with a smartphone, and put into every one of our vehicles tablets that would've allowed that in an incident like this where we had a photograph – where the officers would get a description but they would not see the photograph unless they were at a roll call, we could have instantly sent out to all 35,000 of our officers, here's a picture of an individual you need to be watching for because he has indicated he is going to attack police. Or with a missing child or children – so the technology is coming, and here's an example of how it's going benefit the safety of our officers and the public as we go forward.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: We have no information to that effect at this time. As you would appreciate, it's what we do in the investigation. The canvassing of the neighborhood, looking at the various cameras that might have been in the neighborhood, talking to people who might have been on the street, people who are in the buildings adjacent to where the shooting occurred, and, in that regard, if anybody seeing these newscasts or reading about this are aware that they may have information that might be of assistance to us, we certainly encourage that they call us and give us that information. At least give us the opportunity to talk with them to see if information they might have might be helpful to us in the investigation.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: I've already indicated that we don't at this early stage of the investigation see any linkage to terrorism or radical groups, but that's what the investigation will hope to determine going forward as we get access, if in fact he was somebody who had social media accounts. We have not encountered that yet as of an incident occurred now about just four hours ago.

Unknown: Thank you, sir. Thank you everybody.

Commissioner Bratton: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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