NYPD shooter had history of arrests and mental health treatment


On the morning he shot his ex-girlfriend, Ismaaiyl Brinsley took to Facebook with a heavy message.

“I Always Wanted To Be Known For Doing Something Right,” Brinsley wrote. “But My Past Is Stalking Me And My Present Is Haunting Me.”

Hours later, after taking a bus from Maryland to New York, Brinsley carried out one of the worst attacks on New York City police in years, fatally shooting two officers as they sat in their car in Brooklyn.


Brinsley, 28, made good on a bombastic threat on Instagram in which he wrote, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.” He hashtagged the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who were killed by police.

When Brinsley, who was also black, shot himself in a subway shortly after shooting the officers, he ended a life that had been filled with arrests, family estrangements and -- toward the end -- anti-police sentiments.

Born into a Muslim family in Brooklyn, Brinsley became a high school dropout with a history of mental health treatment who repeatedly ran afoul of the law across the country, according to officials and court records.

Law enforcement officials said Brinsley had 19 arrests in Georgia and Ohio dating back to August 2004. Even his mother was scared of him, officials said.

Robert Boyce, chief of detectives at the New York Police Department, said Brinsley’s mother said that she had not spoken to her son in about a month and that he was estranged from his two sisters.

The mother, who lives in Brooklyn, told police “he had a very troubled childhood and was often violent,” Boyce said. “He attempted suicide in the past and attempted to hang himself a year ago.”


The family said Brinsley had “never expressed any radicalization at all,” Boyce said. It also wasn’t clear yet whether Brinsley participated in any of the protests over police use of force, though officials said they were looking into it.

Some of Brinsley’s convictions included felony shoplifting, possession of a stolen gun and destroying property.

On July 6, 2011, in the Atlanta area, Brinsley shot a woman’s 2007 Chevy Malibu with a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun that he wasn’t supposed to have -- not just because he was a felon, but because it had been stolen, according to Cobb County, Ga., court records.

Brinsley was charged with obstructing two Cobb County police officers “by fleeing from said officers and refusing to obey said officers’ lawful commands,” according to a criminal complaint.

Brinsley pleaded guilty to all charges in the incident, in which he was deemed too poor to afford his own lawyer.

In a plea-deal questionnaire, Brinsley answered “yes” to the question: “Have you ever been a patient in a mental institution or under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist?”


No further information was provided other than that Brinsley said he understood the plea deal and what was happening in court.

Sentenced to probation for the incident in August 2011, Brinsley temporarily dropped off officials’ radar months later. He stopped reporting to his probation supervisor and failed to undergo court-ordered screening for potential anger issues and drug and alcohol abuse, according to court records.

He was active on social media, however, with the NYPD’s Boyce saying that Brinsley posted “rants” primarily on Instagram that expressed “anger against the government, including the police.” The posts were not religious, Boyce said.

Boyce said Brinsley also expressed “self-despair” and anger at himself. (Brinsley’s Facebook and Instagram accounts -- which featured a photo of Brinsley in a “Brooklyn” hat in front of a City of Compton sign -- have since been deactivated.)

Boyce said Brinsley’s rampage began before 6 a.m. Saturday in Maryland, when he used a key that he was not supposed to have to let himself into the apartment of an ex-girlfriend.

When the woman objected to his presence, Boyce said, Brinsley shot her in the stomach with a Taurus 9mm gun that had been purchased at a Georgia pawn shop in 1996 -- when Brinsley was a child. The weapon’s path to Brinsley is under investigation.


He would use the same pistol about nine hours later to kill Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.

Boyce said Brinsley shot his ex-girlfriend about 5:50 a.m.

“At about 6:05 he calls the girlfriend’s mother and says he shot her by accident and hopes she lives,” Boyce said. She is expected to survive.

Police believe Brinsley then caught a bus to New York City, repeatedly calling his ex-girlfriend’s mother by cellphone. Brinsley was captured on video near a major bus drop-off point in Manhattan boarding an N train.

A couple of hours later, Brinsley was again captured on video in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn talking to two men.

“He asks for their gang affiliation,” said Boyce, adding that police have spoken to the two men and do not believe they had anything to do with the killings. “He asks them to follow him on Instagram. He then says, ‘Watch what I’m gonna do.’”

Minutes later, he approached the officers and opened fire.
Twitter: @MattDPearce, @tinasusman