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Who Was Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley?

As Katie and Cortney wrote over the weekend, New York City was the subject of horror when two NYPD officers were murdered “execution style” in their police cruiser in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood in Brooklyn.


On the day of the shooting, the shooter, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, traveled to New York City from Baltimore. He posted a chilling message on an Instagram account reportedly belonging to him saying, “I’m going to put wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours…Let’s take 2 of theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner [sic] #RIPMikeBorwn This may be my final post.” A photo of a handgun accompanied the caption.

At a press conference held by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bratton said this was an “assassination,” and that the Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos didn’t have time to draw their weapons. He also said both officers likely didn’t even see their attacker before they were shot and killed. Brinsley would later commit suicide on a subway platform after being pursued by police after the shooting.

During another press conference held yesterday, the NYPD’s Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce noted that Brinsley had 15 prior arrests in Georgia, including misdemeanor assault, grand larceny, shoplifting, and gun possession. The timeline for those arrests range from August 2004 to June of 2013. He was arrested four times in the state of Ohio starting in May of 2009 to September of 2009; he was arrested for robbery and misdemeanor theft.

From August 2011 to July 2013, Brinsley was incarcerated in Georgia for criminal possession of a weapon. He was also in prison in Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb counties for sentences of 4 months, 30 days, and 8 months respectively for various crimes.


The social media investigation is ongoing. His Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, and two phones are being looked at by the NYPD; one of the phones belonged to his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson, whom he shot in the stomach before making the trek to New York. Thompson survived.

Most of Brinsley’s tirades were on the Instagram account, where his rage seemed to be directed at the government; one posting had him burning an American flag. And, of course, anger at the police, referencing the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

There is no evidence of gang affiliation; there are no tattoos on his body to suggest otherwise. There were no religious statements in his social media posts either.  Boyce gave a detailed timeline of the events that transpired before these heinous murders:


  • 5:30am: Boyce said Brinsley entered Thompson’s apartment in Owings Mills, Maryland with a key he isn’t suppose to have; Thompson knew Brinsley for about a year, but had ended the relationship. Thompson confronts Brinsley, which starts what appears to be a prolonged argument. Thompson calls her mother on her phone to which Thompson’s mother catches part of the confrontation before the call ends. At 5:50am, 911 calls are made reporting a single shot fired at Thompson’s residence. Police arrive and Thompson makes a positive identification that Brinsley was the person who shot her.
  • 6:05am: Brinsley calls Thompson’s mother on her cell phone, saying he shot her by accident and hopes that she lives.
  • 6:35am: Baltimore police are monitoring Brinsley’s movements. They track him going northbound on I-95. Boyce said during this time he calls Thompson’s mother several times.
  • 10:50am: Brinsley arrives in New York City and takes a BoltBus to the West Side.
  • 12:07pm: Brimsley discards Thompson’s phone at the Barclays Center, but not before posting on Instagram the disturbing post mentioned above.
  • 1:30-2:00pm: Baltimore County Police contact the NYPD via fax on the events that had taken place earlier that morning. Boyce said that’s when they started “putting things in motion.” The notifications process begins. Around the same time, Brinsley murders Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. He walked northbound on Tompkins Avenue passed Liu and Ramos, then circled around, went across the street, and came up behind them.

Boyce noted that they’re still working closely with Baltimore County PD and described them as “excellent partners in this investigation.”

The NYPD has contacted Brinsley’s parents, his two sisters, and an ex-girlfriend for background information. Brinsley’s parents noted that they had never seen a scintilla of radicalization from their son, according to Boyce. Brinsley is part of a Muslim family. But, his mother mentioned that her son had a rough childhood, and was often violent. In fact, Boyce noted that Brinsley’s mother was afraid of him–and hadn’t seen her son in a month prior to this weekend’s horrific events.

Brinsley also attempted suicide before; he tried hanging himself last year. The NYPD is tracking his movements in New York for the past week. Boyce noted that he traveled back and forth quite often, but also said they don’t have an official residence. Brinsley’s residence in Georgia actually belongs to his sister–and he hasn’t been in the state for two years; he’s estranged from both of his sisters.

The firearm Brinsley used was a Taurus PT92 model 9mm handgun purchased at a pawnshop in Georgia in 1996. It’s not listed as stolen. A male purchased it at the time, the NYPD knows his identity, and they’re working with the ATF on how Brinsley was able to take possession of this weapon. Brinsley did not buy the firearm since he would have been nine-years old around the date of purchase.

There are 10 eyewitnesses and 35 ear witnesses to the crime. As for the scene of Brinsley’s suicide in the subway, the NYPD also has 10 witnesses and one ear witness.


Brinsley was reported to have a history of mental problems and was prescribed medication at one point in his life.

The NYPD has issues new guidelines in light of the ambush (via NYT):

New York City officers going out on foot patrol were directed to work only in pairs. Sentries were posted at station houses. The department suspended patrols by auxiliary officers — thousands of unarmed volunteers who act as eyes and ears for the department. Detectives, who usually operate alone or in pairs, were told by the head of their union to go out in teams of three.

This event has only intensified tensions within the city; Bratton described it as the worst since the 1970s. Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking a lot of criticism–warranted or not–for the perception that he doesn’t stand strongly enough with New York’ Finest.

De Blasio may have exacerbated the situation when he said at a press conference earlier this month that he instructed his son Dante–who is biracial–to be more careful around police officers. It came after the Staten Island Grand Jury decided not to charge NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the connection to the death of Eric Garner.

Nevertheless, as the city mourns, the Yankees have agreed to pay for the education of Officer Ramos’ sons. But, we’re also reminded that some of the worst of humanity are celebrating the deaths of these officers. For now, it seems Brinsley was a troubled man, with an extensive criminal past; he had anger toward government, the police, and himself.


We will keep you updated on this horrifying crime.  For now, thoughts and prayers for these fallen officers and their families. 

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