In no way should the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner be associated with the shooting deaths of two police officers Saturday in Brooklyn, said the Rev. Al Sharpton at a press conference Sunday morning at the headquarters of the National Action Network.
“It is not only morally wrong to use the names of these families,” Sharpton said, referring to the message left by the killer, “but it’s hurting the cause these families are fighting for.” He said what they want to see is a “system that is fair for everyone.”
Gwen Carr, the mother of Garner who was killed in a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in July, underscored Sharpton’s comments, stating that “I don’t want my son’s name connected with violence. We are about peaceful nonviolence.”
Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, expressed her heartfelt condolences before relinquishing the microphone to Sharpton, who played one of the threatening messages he has received recently. It wasn’t audible but he repeated the message, which said “Stop killing innocent people…we will get you.” He said he had turned the messages over to the FBI. The press conference ended without anyone taking questions.
The press conference was called in the wake of the shooting deaths of Officer Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were shot in cold blood as they sat eating in their patrol car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley. The killer then hurried to a nearby subway station where he apparently killed himself.
Brinsley had arrived in Brooklyn, where he was born, from Baltimore where he reportedly shot his ex-girlfriend and then used her phone to text messages that he was going to kill some police officers in revenge of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. It was that connection that prompted Sunday’s press conference at NAN.
This was a troubling moment for Mayor de Blasio, already caught in the throes of protesters outraged by the non-indictments in Ferguson and Staten Island as well as angry police officials who believe he has sided too much with the protesters. “Our hearts are heavy,” he said Saturday evening at a press conference from Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Brooklyn D.A. Ken Thompson nearby. “We lost two good men who devoted their lives to protecting all of us….When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the fabric of our society.”
The two officers, “were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” said Bratton. They never had a chance to draw their guns, he added.
“My deepest thoughts and prayers are with the families of the police officers killed in the line of duty today,” said Public Advocate Letitia James in an email. “Every day, New York Police Officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us…and we honor the service of New York’s finest.”
Later, after the Sunday’s press conference, in an interview with attorney Jonathan Moore, who represents the Garner family, said that he and the family are waiting until the federal authorities complete their investigation before they go forward with their lawsuit.
Moore also represents the family of Akai Gurley who was killed on a darkened stairwell in East New York by the police in November. He said he is awaiting the outcome of the investigation there as well, which will be handled by D.A. Thompson. Moore said Thompson appears to be sensitive to the situation and “we will have to give him the benefit of the doubt,” as they move to impanel a grand jury.