The shocking, cold-blooded murder of two New York City police officers Saturday has raised fresh questions about whether prominent Democrats — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in particular — have gone too far in their criticism of law enforcement and, at least in part, caused this weekend’s brutal slayings.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki, for example, tweeted that Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Holder have used “divisive anti-cop rhetoric” and, in turn, helped inspire Saturday’s shooter.
The gunman, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on social media that he intended to kill cops and was deeply angry about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, respectively, earlier this year.
The incidents led to nationwide protests and personal interventions by both Mr. Holder and President Obama, both of whom have urged law enforcement to develop better relationships with the communities they serve and end any singling out of black Americans. Mr. Obama, among other things, recently created a high-level task force on “21st century policing” and charged the group with making recommendations on how law enforcement can better interact with citizens.
Brinsley, who later killed himself, murdered Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Saturday, approaching their marked patrol car and opening fire at point-blank range.
Republicans were careful to blame Brinsley alone for his horrific acts, but some suggested that Mr. Holder and others may have created an environment where anti-police attitudes can thrive.
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“The tone they’re setting around the rhetoric regarding the cops incites crazy people. But I blame the shooter,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, during an appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS on Sunday.
A Florida police officer also was killed in a shooting early on Sunday morning, according to Reuters and other media reports. A suspect reportedly is in custody, though a motive has not yet been given.
Meanwhile, Mr. de Blasio has found himself in a near war with his own police department over perceived anti-cop positions. Officers turned their backs on the mayor as he entered a press conference Saturday to address the murders of Mr. Ramos and Mr. Liu.
Others have criticized Mr. de Blasio for his mayoral campaign last year, which partly was centered on opposition to the New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program.
“Quite frankly, the mayor ran an anti-police campaign last year,” former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.
But others say it’s wrong to try and connect the outrage and protests following the Brown and Garner deaths to any subsequent violence against police, including Saturday’s incident.
“To link the criminal insanity of a lone gunman to the peaceful protests and aspirations of many people across the country, including the attorney general, the mayor [of New York City] and even the president certainly is not fair,” said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, speaking on “Face the Nation.”