After 24 Hours, Police Dredge Up Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s Past

December 21, 2014 Updated: December 22, 2014

NEW YORK—After investigating the shooter of two slain cops for twenty-four hours, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce shared his findings in a press briefing late Sunday afternoon.

The 28-year-old man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot two police officers Saturday in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn execution-style while the men were still inside their NYPD car. He then committed suicide in a subway station.

The families of slain officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos are in mourning and multiple candlelight vigils are being held in the city Sunday evening to honor the two. The tragedy comes after weeks of protests against police brutality in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Much police work has been put into tracing Brinsley’s movements as he traveled from Baltimore, Maryland, fleeing his ex-girlfriend’s house, to Brooklyn, where he trashed her phone and ambushed the two officers.

Brinsley was born on Halloween in 1986 in Brooklyn. He went to high school in New Jersey and often traveled to Georgia. He had a history of shoplifting and has been arrested four times in Ohio. Police have spoken to Brinsley’s parents, sisters, and ex-girlfriend. They determined his actions were not driven by radicalization or religious beliefs.

He came from a Muslim family and had a troubled and violent childhood, his mother told police. He was estranged from his family and his mother hadn’t seen him in a month.

He had told a court in the past that he had mental health issues, but was not diagnosed. 

On his Instagram, he had posted anti-government messages such as the burning of the American flag and messages about Eric Garner and Michael Brown. When he came to New York, he said in a post that he was coming to put wings on some “pigs.”


He broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home at five in the morning Saturday with a key he wasn’t supposed to have. After arguing with her, he then shot her once in the abdomen, which the woman’s mother heard on the phone.

As police arrived and the woman identified Brinsley, he took her phone and fled. He fled the state while calling the woman’s mother, saying that he shot her by accident and he hoped she lived.

He took a BoltBus to New York City. Two hours, between 12 p.m. and the incident, are left unaccounted for. Police are still seeking tips and information about those hours.

He discarded the ex-girlfriend’s phone at Barclays Center, where the police later retrieved it.

At the same time that the Baltimore police department sent a fax of a wanted sign for Brinsley to the New York police department, Brinsley murdered the two officers with four shots.

Just prior to the shooting, Brinsley asked two men standing nearby whether they had gang affiliation, to follow him on Instagram, and to watch what he was going to do next.

The two men are not believed to have any connection with Brinsley.  

The gun he used was not stolen, but purchased in 1996 by a man who was not Brinsley. Police are still investigating how Brinsley obtained the gun and where he stayed while he was in New York.