- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2014

President Obama said Sunday that he condemns “unconditionally” the murder of two New York City police officers by a gunman who may have been angered over the deaths of black men in confrontations with police in Missouri and New York.

“Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones … and for that, there is no justification,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal - prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.

The president said police officers “who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day - and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day.”

Mr. Obama was briefed on the shootings Saturday while golfing in Hawaii, where he is spending the Christmas holiday with his family.

The president called New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton on Sunday, White House officials said, expressing condolences and offering the full support of the administration in the days and weeks to come.

“In their conversation, the president reiterated his call for the American people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen,” White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said.

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Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. also spoke out about the killings and pledged the full resources of the Justice Department to aid in the investigation.

“This was an unspeakable act of barbarism, and I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of these two brave officers in the line of duty,” Mr. Holder said in a statement.

The officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were ambushed as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon by a lone gunman, whom police identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Authorities said Brinsley, who attacked his girlfriend in Baltimore earlier Saturday, took his own life on a subway platform as police closed in on him.

The New York Daily News reported that Brinsley was believed to be involved with a gang that has vowed retribution for deaths of Eric Garner of New York and Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, in confrontations with white police officers.

Mr. Holder has been critical of the Ferguson, Missouri, police in the aftermath of the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. His department is investigating whether Mr. Brown’s civil rights were violated.

The attorney general said the “cowardly attack” in New York “underscores the dangers that are routinely faced by those who protect and serve their fellow citizens.”

“As a nation we must not forget this as we discuss the events of the recent past,” Mr. Holder said. “These courageous men and women routinely incur tremendous personal risks, and place their lives on the line each and every day, in order to preserve public safety. We are forever in their debt.”

Mr. Obama held a series of meetings at the White House earlier this month on the civil unrest stemming from grand juries’ decisions not to indict the white police officers in the Ferguson case and in the death of Eric Garner, who died of suffocation and other causes while being subdued by police last summer. The president met with young civil-rights activists and with law-enforcement officials, and set up a task force to give him recommendations for improving relations between police departments and minority communities.

Mr. Holder said the U.S. “must always honor the valor — and the sacrifices — of all law enforcement officers with a steadfast commitment to keeping them safe.”

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