Tragedy hit New York City on Saturday afternoon when a man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley murdered two NYPD police officers in cold blood. In the early hours of the investigation, officials were certain of two things: Brinsley had a history of criminal behavior – arrests for shoplifting, carrying a concealed weapon, trespassing, robbery, and reckless conduct – and he was apparently motivated by the national furor over Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“They were quite simply assassinated, targeted for their uniform,” said Police Commissioner Willam Bratton.
The officers – Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos – were sitting in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the mid-afternoon when they were killed by Brinsley. As cops closed in on the fleeing murderer, he turned the gun on himself in a nearby subway. Liu was 32 and Ramos was 40. Both were fathers.
As it turned out, they were not Brinsley’s first victims of the day. According to police, he started his Saturday by shooting his ex-girlfriend in the belly. He followed that up with some vile threats against police on his Instagram page. “I’m putting wings on pigs today,” Brinsley wrote. “They take 1 of ours…let’s take 2 of theirs. This may be my final post.” Included in the post was a picture of a silver gun that police believe he used to commit the murders.
Disturbingly, The Daily Beast reported that several people gathered around the developing crime scene in Brooklyn, many of them “clapping and laughing” at the carnage. According to an eyewitness, “Some were saying, ‘They deserved it.’ and another was shouting at the cops, ‘Serves them right because you mistreat people.'”
Any Guilty Consciences? Anyone?
To be absolutely clear, no one is ultimately responsible for the deaths of these police officers except the man who pulled the trigger. That said, there are plenty of people who should give themselves a long, hard look in the mirror over the next few days. Most of them work in either politics or the media.
Over the last five months, people in positions of leadership and trust have abdicated their responsibility to the public. They have allowed innuendo, agenda, and outright morons to dictate the terms of the conversation. Instead of reporting the facts and the facts alone, outlets like CNN and MSNBC have turned 2014 into The Year The Police Decided to Start Murdering Black People With Impunity. At every turn, they have fed into this narrative, calling on supposed experts to tell viewers that “something has to change.” Politicians like Bill de Blasio and Barack Obama have exacerbated the problem, maintaining the careful air of impartiality even as they use these incidents to speak to broader issues.
It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. And the problem isn’t the two incidents. The problem is how they were reported. Instead of presenting viewers with the facts, so-called journalists did everything they could to further the cries of racism. By the time the evidence in the Michael Brown case was free for everyone to read, the damage was already done.
Unless politicians, reporters, and news executives decide it’s time to give the public a fuller picture of these incidents – and ones that might occur in the future – we can probably expect more of what we saw Saturday afternoon. What I want to know – what I want people like Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Melissa Harris-Perry, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, etc to answer – is whether or not it was worth it. You didn’t pull the trigger, but you damn sure set the stage.