Pop quiz: A sociopath fatally shoots two police officers execution-style while they are sitting in a patrol car, who or what is responsible for their untimely and tragic deaths?
The gun? President Obama? Lax firearm laws? Poor policing? The victims? City politicians? Video games? Violent movies? Drugs?
From my perspective the answer to that question is almost always: the person who pulled the trigger. Yup, that’s who is responsible for the crime. Sure, if the shooter had an accomplice or conspirator, then that individual is responsible as well.
Yet, for various reasons, there is a tendency for people to put blame where it doesn’t belong which is ultimately what’s happening in New York City right now as police officials are blaming Mayor Bill de Blasio for the death of two officers: Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32.
Ramos and Liu were ambushed by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley last week. The two officers were in their patrol car when Brinsley walked up to it, drew his gun and shot the men in the head at point-blank range. Shortly thereafter, Brinsley took his own life.
Clearly, Brinsley is responsible for the murder of these policemen. But some leaders in the law enforcement community are pointing the finger at de Blasio.
“Mayor de Blasio, the blood of these two officers is clearly on your hands,” Ed Mullins, president of the sergeants association, said in a statement.
“It is your failed policies and actions that enabled this tragedy to occur,” he continued. “I only hope and pray that more of these ambushes and executions do not happen again.”
Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, also blamed de Blasio.
“That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor,” Lynch said in statement. “When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”
Why are they blaming de Blasio?
Well, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, who died from compression of the neck and chest after Pantaleo put him in a headlock in July, de Blasio said he was “astonished by the decision” and called it a “very painful day for so many New Yorkers.”
For NYPD officers, they felt de Blasio threw them under the bus, according to Lynch. But that still doesn’t explain why Brinsley shot and killed two officers. On his Instagram account, not long before he murdered Ramos and Liu, Brinsley referenced Garner as well as Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer following an physical altercation between the two men.
“I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today,” wrote Brinsley. “They Take 1 Of Ours…Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMikeBrown.”
He concluded with, “This May Be My Final Post.”
There’s no mention of de Blasio or his policies on crime. As for a motive, it appears the shooter wanted revenge — for the deaths of Brown and Garner. But Brinsley also shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend before he killed Ramos and Liu. What motivated him to do that?
The point is a simple one. While de Blasio may have disrespected his police force and said some things that fomented the outrage following the non-indictment of the officer who killed Garner, he did not pull the trigger. Brinsley did. Brinsley is responsible. He had a history of violence and mental illness. He was a ticking time bomb.
I’m not a fan of mayor de Blasio, but I’m not going to blame him for a crime he didn’t commit. As a society that values essential liberties we must resist the urge to politicize these tragedies and we must remember to place blame where it ultimate lies: on the shooter — not the gun, not the law, not a politician, not a video game, etc.