The tragic killing of two New York City police officers threatens to compound the tension and discord that have wracked the nation after recent episodes in which unarmed black men died at the hands of white officers.
Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, were seated in their squad car in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon when a gunman, apparently Ismaaiyl Brinsley, approached from behind and shot them dead. The president called it senseless murder; the attorney general said it was an act of barbarism. To law-abiding Americans, it is a scar on civilized society.
Brinsley, who was African-American, fled to a subway station and committed suicide. Earlier in the day he had shot and wounded his girlfriend near Baltimore, Md., and left threatening posts online. According to law enforcement officials, he wrote on an Instagram account, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.” He used the hashtags Shootthepolice, RIPErivGardner (sic) and RIPMikeBrown.
The hashtags referred to the deaths of Eric Garner, who died during a choke hold by a New York City officer in July, and Michael Brown, who was shot to death in August by an officer in Ferguson, Mo.
Although Brinsley had a history of mental illness, it is small consolation to the two family members who lost sons, husbands and a father in the deadly assault. For the rest of the nation, it is a grim reminder of the daily risks taken by police officers when they put on the badge to go to work. The public is eager for the protection and security that police provide, and they certainly want police response to be done by the book, but Americans sometimes forget the potential sacrifice that comes with the job and that creates a fearful uncertainty for an officer’s loved ones.
As the nation moves forward in examining how police do their duty and how citizens approach officers of the law, it is worth counting the losses on both sides. Americans have seen enough dying on their streets, both officers and civilians.
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,