Mayor De Blasio Takes Heat As City Mourns Slain Police Officers
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to repair his frayed relationship with the city's police department. Over the weekend, a man killed two officers in Brooklyn before taking his own life. The head of the city's largest police union put the blame on the mayor and demonstrators who were upset about the lack of indictment in the Eric Gardner case. Today, the mayor and others are calling for calm, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: When Mayor de Blasio arrived at a hospital in Brooklyn on Saturday night, some police officers turned their back on him in a show of disrespect. He received a warmer welcome today at the Police Athletic League in Midtown. And he began his speech by talking about the families of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
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BILL DE BLASIO: They're suffering an unspeakable pain right now. With no warning, their loved one was gone, their father, their husband, their son, their brother.
ROSE: De Blasio says he's met with the families of both officers and promised them the city's support.
DE BLASIO: It is so hard to make sense of it, how one deeply troubled, violent individual could do this to these good families.
ROSE: The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had a long history of run-ins with law enforcement in Georgia and had tried to commit suicide before. Brinsley bragged about the killings in advance on Instagram. And he mentioned by name Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men whose deaths at the hands of police prompted major demonstrations across New York. Pat Lynch, the leader of the city's largest police union, said Saturday night that the demonstrators and Mayor de Blasio are partly to blame for Brinsley's shooting spree.
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PAT LYNCH: There's blood on many hands tonight, those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.
ROSE: Police unions were already angry with the mayor's handling of the Garner case and his comments in the wake of the grand jury's decision not to indict the officers involved. New York police are also working without a contract. De Blasio did not address Lynch's remarks directly in his speech. But he called for calm and a halt to demonstrations until after the officers' funerals. At a later news conference this afternoon, police commissioner Bill Bratton says the police unions agreed.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
BILL BRATTON: They're also, if you will, standing down in respect for our fallen members until after the funerals.
ROSE: A makeshift memorial to the officers has appeared on the corner where the shooting occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. Police officers and local residents came today to pay their respects and leave flowers and candles.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I need a lighter.
ANGIE GONZALES: I got a lighter right here.
ROSE: Angie Gonzales (ph) didn't know the officers. But she lit a candle for them anyway.
GONZALES: I feel bad for the families, for, you know, the children. And it's Christmas holiday. And for them not to have their parents home, it's very hurtful. It's hard. It's hard.
ERIC MCNEAL: It was an atrocity.
ROSE: Eric McNeal (ph) also stopped by to pay his respects. He doesn't think Mayor de Blasio deserves the blame for what Brinsley did.
MCNEAL: The man, he should be let off the hook. He's not responsible for the actions of some deranged person. He's not.
ROSE: The funeral for Officer Ramos is scheduled for Saturday. Arrangements for Officer Liu have yet to be announced. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.