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New York's Mayor Faces Fresh Test in Ambush Deaths
From the Wall Street Journal of Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:28:25 EST
Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, speaks during a news conference Saturday.
Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, speaks during a news conference Saturday. Associated Press

The ambush killings of two New York City police officers on Saturday poses a new challenge for a mayor whose support of recent protests against police tactics has drawn some criticism and has complicated his larger goal of ushering in a new era of relations between police and minority communities.

Authorities said Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were gunned down by a man who appears to have targeted them in retaliation for the deaths this year of Eric Garner and Michael Brown —unarmed black men who died in confrontations with police in New York and Ferguson, Mo., respectively. Recent decisions by grand juries to not indict the officers involved in those incidents have spawned protests in New York and other cities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio ’s voicing of support for the New York protests—which have been largely nonviolent but have snarled traffic on heavily traveled roads and bridges—has drawn fire from political opponents. They say the Democrat, who took office early this year and had campaigned against aggressive police tactics, had fostered an anti-police climate in the city.

Police union officials have been particularly angered by Mr. de Blasio’s recent recounting of a conversation with his biracial teenage son about being careful in all encounters with police officers. They were also upset by the mayor’s calling attacks by protesters on police “alleged attacks.”

The fraught nature of the mayor’s relationship with the police was on display Saturday night when officers turned their back on him as he approached a lectern to talk about the killings at a hospital news conference. Later, a police union official said Mr. de Blasio’s office had “blood on the hands.”

Two New York City police officers were killed by a gunman who ambushed their patrol car outside a housing project in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. Photo: Getty Images

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, said in an interview Sunday that he thought the police union’s words and actions had gone too far, but he said he understood what motivated them.

“We’ve been treated to four months of propaganda about police,” said Mr. Giuliani, who generally enjoyed strong support from police. “It’s dangerous in the city for the mayor to lose the confidence of the police department.”

Mr. de Blasio has generally said the protesters have a right to demonstrate in the streets about the Garner and Brown cases, while he has also lauded police officers and credited them with keeping the city’s crime rate at historic lows.

On Sunday, Mr. de Blasio attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. He sat in the second row, with a somber expression throughout, between his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Police Commissioner William Bratton , and he left without saying anything.

Phil Walzak, a spokesman for the mayor, dismissed criticism as rhetoric designed to divide the city. He said Mr. de Blasio, who isn’t a practicing Catholic, attended Mass because he wanted to “emphasize themes of unity and togetherness and support for the families of these officers.”

Former Mayor David Dinkins, the city’s first and only black mayor, urged Mr. de Blasio and the police union leadership to meet and mend the rift. “I would hope that they would come together and find ways to reach an accord,” Mr. Dinkins said.

Mr. Walzak declined Sunday afternoon to outline which steps the mayor plans to take next. Police union officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Even some of the mayor’s allies have begun to voice criticism, including Letitia James, the city’s public advocate. She said the mayor should settle a continuing contract dispute with the police unions and criticized the mayor for the “alleged attacks” comment, made earlier this month in describing protesters attacking members of the NYPD during a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“There was nothing alleged about it,” she said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, fourth from left, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday
Mayor Bill de Blasio, fourth from left, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday Associated Press

Other allies stood by him. Eric Adams, a black former police captain and the Brooklyn borough president, said the mayor’s response expressed the sort of personal urgency and fears that people of color in the city feel about their children. “I thought he did an excellent job,” Mr. Adams said.

—Erica Orden, Sonja Sharp and Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this article.

Slain NYPD Officers Mourned in Brooklyn

Mourners gathered for a vigil Sunday at the site where New York City Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot and killed in an ambush Saturday afternoon in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

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Mourners take part in a vigil Sunday at the site where New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday.
Mourners take part in a vigil Sunday at the site where New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday. Stephanie Keith/Reuters
People visit a makeshift memorial during a vigil for the two officers on Sunday.
People visit a makeshift memorial during a vigil for the two officers on Sunday. John Taggart for The Wall Street Journal
A woman sings ‘This Little Light of Mine’ during the vigil on Sunday.
A woman sings ‘This Little Light of Mine’ during the vigil on Sunday. Stephanie Keith/Reuters
Mourners attend the vigil in Brooklyn on Sunday.
Mourners attend the vigil in Brooklyn on Sunday. Stephanie Keith/Reuters
Two woman hug Sunday at the makeshift memorial.
Two woman hug Sunday at the makeshift memorial. Carlo Allegri/Reuters
A man leaves flowers at the memorial.
A man leaves flowers at the memorial. Associated Press
The Rev. Al Sharpton and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother, on Sunday denounce the shooting deaths of the officers during a news conference in Harlem.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother, on Sunday denounce the shooting deaths of the officers during a news conference in Harlem. Getty Images
Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, attends Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday with Police Commissioner William Bratton, center, and Chief of Department James O'Neill, left.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, attends Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday with Police Commissioner William Bratton, center, and Chief of Department James O'Neill, left. John Minchillo/Associated Press
A police officer lays flowers at the makeshift memorial where the police officers were shot.
A police officer lays flowers at the makeshift memorial where the police officers were shot. Stephanie Keith/Reuters
A police officer wipes tears away near the scene of the shootings.
A police officer wipes tears away near the scene of the shootings. Carlo Allegri/Reuters
An ambulance carrying one of the slain officers passed by a New York Fire Department honor guard along Broadway in Brooklyn.
An ambulance carrying one of the slain officers passed by a New York Fire Department honor guard along Broadway in Brooklyn. Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Mourners stand at attention as the bodies of the police officers are transported from Woodhull Medical Center.
Mourners stand at attention as the bodies of the police officers are transported from Woodhull Medical Center. Associated Press
New York Police Officers Rafael Ramos, left, and Wenjian Liu were killed Saturday.
New York Police Officers Rafael Ramos, left, and Wenjian Liu were killed Saturday. NYPD
Investigators work near where the shootings occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Investigators work near where the shootings occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. John Minchillo/Associated Press
Investigators at the scene of the shootings.
Investigators at the scene of the shootings. John Minchillo/Associated Press
Police block off an area near where the shootings occurred.
Police block off an area near where the shootings occurred. Reuters
Investigators work near the area of the shootings.
Investigators work near the area of the shootings. John Minchillo/Associated Press
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, during a news conference with Police Commissioner William Bratton.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, during a news conference with Police Commissioner William Bratton. John Taggart/European Pressphoto Agency
Police at the scene of the shootings.
Police at the scene of the shootings. Carlo Allegri/Reuters
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Write to Michael Howard Saul at michael.saul@wsj.com and Joshua Dawsey at joshua.dawsey@wsj.com



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