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New York City in Mourning

Aired December 22, 2014 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. This is CNN Tonight. I am Don Lemon. You're looking live at New York City in mourning right now after the assassination of two police officers, shot point blank by a man who officials say traveled to this city expressly to kill cops. Breaking news tonight, the shooter's mother and sister offer condolences to the officers' families and ask what he was doing out on the streets in the first place. Listen to what they said to our affiliate, WCBS.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They kept releasing him...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE... into the streets. So isn't that a problem that the justice system should be asking? Not us.


LEMON: Now, a war of words breaks out over who's to blame. In an extraordinary scene, police officers literally turning their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio. Meanwhile, de Blasio calls the attack on police an attack on the city as a whole and calls for a moratorium on anti- police protests. But is this a police problem, a discrimination problem, or is it both? Tonight, we're going to talk to people on all sides of this, including the former commissioner, who says he has never seen anti-police attitudes like these.

Plus the first responders who fought desperately to save the officers. They tell their emotional stories. They're here with me live. And also New York magazine's Frank Rich weighs in on police protests and the move -- the movie North Korea doesn't want you to see. We've got a whole lot to get to this evening. But I want to go right to CNN's Martin Savidge. He's in Brooklyn tonight at the scene of the deadly attack on officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. Good evening to you, Martin. What is the very latest tonight from Bedford-Stuyvesant?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Don, this, of course, was the scene of that horrific attack that took place on the Saturday before Christmas in the midst of the holiday season. And now, it's become a touchstone for many who have been shocked, who are in grief, who are mourning, and they've been drawn here. I mean you can see the collection of this -- all the things that have been brought. And if you look at it -- you can't see it real clearly, but if you could -- the diversity -- it represents the diversity of New York in every way in every makeup -- religious makeup, ethnic makeup. And people are drawn here. Many people throughout the day have come to add, maybe add flowers, add a shirt, add something, a note. Others are just coming here to see that it really happened and to read what others have left behind. So it's a point where people have begun to try to fathom what really happened.

LEMON: We heard yesterday from Officer Ramos' family, Martin, and we just heard from Officer Liu's widow. Tell us what she said.

SAVIDGE: Yeah. She was speaking, of course, for her own personal loss. We understand from authorities here that she had only been married to her police officer husband for a couple of months, so they had just started a new life together, and now that life has been tragically taken not from her nut also from the Ramos family. Here's this.


PEI XIA CHEN, WIFE OF WENJIAN LIU: The Liu family would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the police department, our neighbors, the entire New York City community, friends and co-workers for the help and support they provide. We would also like to express our condolence to Officer Ramos' family. This is a difficult time for both of our families, but we will stand together and get through this together. Thank you.


SAVIDGE: Hard to imagine. And you hear it in her voice words and you hear it in her words. It was just heartbreaking, Don.

LEMON: It is absolutely terrible. I want to show you some video now. The mayor and the police commissioner held a press conference today. This is a surveillance video of Ismaaiyl Brinsley that you're looking at right now. Martin, what is the -- what is the significance of the video? We'll put it up. There it is.

SAVIDGE: Now, the important thing to note is this video is taken, of course, at a shopping area in Brooklyn -- not that far away from this scene -- and it was apparently about three hours before the shooting took place. So you're looking at something that is about to happen. Of course, we're looking at it in hindsight. But it's also the authorities trying to say look, "Hey, look. There was about a two and a half-hour gap. We don't know what this man did before the shooting." They want to find out whoa talked to, who is he in contact with. They want to make sure no one else is an accomplice in any way to this horrific crime.

LEMON: He's in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brooklyn for us this evening. Thank you, Martin. I want to bring in the volunteer emergency workers who were the first on the scene of the attack and desperately fought to save the wounded officers. And you see the chaotic moments after the shooting in this cell phone video from witnesses -- a witness who was across the street.

So again, you can see the chaos there. Joining me now is Tantania Alexander -- Tantania Alexander, Baron Johnson, and Pedro Adorno, and commander Rocky Robinson. They're all with me. And they're here from the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps. I also want to recognize some folks who are off scene now. More of the guys are off scene, Antoine Robinson, Heath Brown, and Colin Rayburn. And we wanted to make sure that we could show all of them because they are indeed heroes. They all helped out in all of this. So how are you guys doing this evening? How are you doing?


LEMON: Listening to the -- when you listen to the widow, even though you do what you do, it's never easy to hear that, right?


ROCKY ROBINSON, COMMANDER BEDFORD-STUYVESANT VOLUNTEER CORPS: I would say what we want to do is extend our condolence to that family because we know what they're going through now. And our responders, when they heard that a police officer -- two police officers were shot, we ran to that ambulance, and we got there and did everything we could. This young lady...

LEMON: As I understand, she was -- you had just been on a call that was unsuccessful, a cardiac arrest. So it was a tough Saturday for all of you.

ALEXANDER: The night before, yeah. That was Friday -- early in the morning. And me and my partner -- my partner and I, Baron Johnson, we did a cardiac arrest the night before and that was unsuccessful. So for us to get that call and then turn around and get this call, it just made it a whole build-up that same day.

LEMON: As you -- you were helping out with the officer, Pedro?

PEDRO ADORNO, FIRST RESPONDER, BEDFORD-STUYVESANT VOLUNTEER CORPS: Yes. I assisted my EMT and my fellow partner here with, you know, whatever they asked me to do.

LEMON: What were you guys saying to the officers at this point?

ADORNO: Pretty much...

ROBINSON: Everyone wasn't conscious.

ADORNO: Not everyone was conscious.

ROBINSON: They were unconscious.

LEMON: So did you talk to them to try to say, "Stay with me?" What did you say?

ADORNO: I just -- I kept asking Officer Ramos that if he could hear me to just, you know, blink his eyes or try to move or do anything to gesture that he can hear me, and it was nothing at all.

LEMON: No response from either of the officers?


ADORNO: No, sir.


LEMON: You -- when you guys race to a scene like this, what's going through your mind?

ROBINSON: Well, when you hear that there's somebody shot, you know it's an emergency situation, that you have to do your proper patient assessment, see if they are breathing, open up their airway, check for a carotid to make sure they're circulating. These officers, neither one of them had any circulation going on. So we had to get them out of the car and put them on the backboard and start out compressions and our ventilations, and we were able to put the first -- Ramos into the back of our vehicle.

LEMON: That's what I wanted to ask because, Baron, did you go to the hospital in the back of the ambulance with the officer?


LEMON: You were the driver.

JOHNSON: ... of the ambulance.

LEMON: Who went with him?


ROBINSON: And my other EMT, EMT Womble, he couldn't get off work tonight. He was in the back of our ambulance.

LEMON: And you?

ROBINSON: And he was in the back of our ambulance, but what happened is we didn't have but one ambulance. They arrived on the scene about two or three minutes later and took the other officer. But we were doing -- these gentlemen over there was doing CPR on the other cop.

LEMON: Okay. Let me ask you -- let me let these guys talk. So who was with the officers? You were with the officers.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. I was.

LEMON: So tell us what happened as you were taking them. I understand you went to the emergency room with them as well. Take us through that.

ALEXANDER: Yeah. I went to the emergency room. I got the driver, Officer Ramos. My partner, Baron Johnson, we pulled them out of the car basically and put them on the backboard, collar, long board -- I meant collar and headband him, and he started doing compressions. We got to the back of the ambulance, I noticed that he still wasn't -- he wasn't conscious. After finally arguing with a couple of cops about going to KCH, I finally told everybody (inaudible) and I kept on -- and I told the cop, "Listen. You have to take over compressions while I seal and stabilize the wounds." And he was pumping, he was pumping, and we were calling his name. He still wasn't answering.

LEMON: Tell us about the wounds. What did you see?

ALEXANDER: His ears, his blood, gray matter coming out. It was just -- it's a lot. Like, he had like a whole -- there was a whole lot going on.

LEMON: I understand the doctors worked on him for an hour?

ALEXANDER: Yes. Yes, sir.



LEMON: Yes? Were you there?

JOHNSON: Yes. I was there the whole time.

ALEXANDER: We were there.

LEMON: Tell us what you saw.

JOHNSON: Initially, when the call came over, it came over as officer down. I was approximately maybe a block and a half away from the base. So I ran back to the base to get Tanti (ph) and Pedro and Womble and let them know that, you know, we have an officer down. As we approach the scene, there were a lot of cops. No EMS was there yet. They directed us to the cop. We got there. And like what Tanti (ph) said, you know, automatically we just went in and started working on them. We did everything that we can do. And we noticed that we were the only ones there. We had to work on both patients because we couldn't just tend to one. So it was a mixture of, you know, Tanti (ph) going from helping me doing compressions on Ramos to going over to the other side with Officer Liu.

LEMON: You haven't said much. What did you -- what's your experience? What did you do -- what was going through your mind as you're doing all of this, Pedro?

ADORNO: Well, you can -- you can only think a certain amount of things, you know. When you -- when I went up on the scene, you know, it was -- it was scarring.


ADORNO: It was scarring. You know what I mean? Like to see two police officers that way, you know, it affected me in so many different ways. You know?

LEMON: Now, as I understand, you guys, you do this, Rocky, voluntarily.

ROBINSON: Well, let me just tell you something. One of the calls this remind me of is a call where a guy was shot in the head and brain matter was coming out and the police had already roped off the area because to them it was an obvious DOA, but that doesn't matter. You have to do your proper patient assessment and see and feel that carotid to make sure he's not pulsating. So what happened is you have to work on this man no matter what.

LEMON: Listen, before we go, we're running out of time but I just want to know you that do this voluntarily. You accept...


ROBINSON: Yeah, this is a volunteer ambulance corps. We don't get paid. As a matter of fact, if we had another ambulance we would have had both of the people. We do it on a volunteer basis. We depend on donations to keep us running. And while we're running (ph) we only had one ambulance is because we didn't have insurance for the other ambulance. You know, otherwise, we would have had both cops off the scene there in less than two minutes.

LEMON: So if people want to help you out, is there a website? Is there a fund where they go?

ROBINSON: Yeah. Please go to B as in boy, S as in Sam, V as in victor, A as in apple, C as in Charlie dot org and donate to save a life.

LEMON: Thank you.

ROBINSON: We save lives all over the world.

LEMON: And we thank you for it. Thank you very much.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you very much. And let's show our guys here off screen. I wanted to make sure everyone got on camera because, again, we think that you all -- we know that you all are heroes. Thank you this evening from everyone in America.

When we come right back, the shocking moment when New York police officers literally turned their backs on the city's mayor. Is the relationship between police and city hall that bad and what will it take to fix it? Plus the former police commissioner who says America's police officers are not out of control. Also, is this payback for North Korea? Why the whole country went offline today. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Many police officers in New York City are angry at Mayor Bill de Blasio tonight. They charge he has taken the side of protesters in recent demonstrations and hasn't shown enough support for police. They showed the mayor exactly how they feel on Saturday, turning their backs on him at the hospital where the two murdered officers were taken.

So joining me now is Melinda Katz. She's the president of the New York City Borough of Queens and an ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Thank you for joining us, Borough President. We appreciate -- we appreciate it tonight.


LEMON: You know that video is chilling. New York's finest turning their backs on the city's leader. Many current and former officers feel that the mayor has symbolically turned his back on them. Would - how do you respond to that?

KATZ: You know, New York City is a tough place, and it tests you. And there's no doubt that it tests your heart. But protests and open debate and a public discussion is exactly what America was founded upon. It's exactly what legislation like the Civil Rights Movement came from and health care choices. It's the reason, by the way, that I as a woman can vote, because of debate and protest. That doesn't preclude supporting the police as well. Make no mistake about it.

These two officers, these young men who were sworn to protect the City of New York and were doing their job, they were killed by a lone gunman. That gunman killed -- shot his girlfriend, was arrested 19 times, came to the City of New York to kill these officers. That is the person we need to blame, and as far as protest goes, New York City, it's almost an obligation to be on the streets and to say your piece.

LEMON: But -- OK, so but I want you to -- I'm sure you've heard this from Patrick Lynch, what he -- the head of New York's biggest union said in reaction to the killings. Let's listen now and I'll get your response.


PATRICK LYNCH, PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION, PRESIDENT: There's blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the Office of the Mayor.


LEMON: You know, I'm sure you're going to say that is an extreme position to take but he does represent police officers in this city.

KATZ: I think it's more than extreme. I think that right now is a time for the city to heal. And at the end of the day, two officers were killed. They're son -- they are a son. They are a husband. They are family members. And we need to give the city time to mourn. The mayor -- the mayor talked about that this afternoon, and I think that's absolutely right. LEMON: Yes.

KATZ: But I also think it's time for leaders to step up and take charge. We need to be above this fray. We need to be sure that we are working as one city. There is no loss of life that is acceptable. There is no loss of life that the City of New York will ever accept. And to put the blame at the hands of a mayor who has accepted protests, who has -- has had open debate in his city, and to say that just because he has open debate and open protests -- and by the way, voices need to be heard, does not mean that you don't support the hardworking men and women who protect our public safety every single day.

An attack on them is an attack on the public safety of the City of New York. I think it's time for the leaders of the city, the unions, the administration, all of the elected officials, the civic leaders, to come up and be above the fray that's happening right now. We cannot start healing as a city unless we do that.


KATZ: At the bare minimum, we need to let these officers rest. We need to let the families mourn.

LEMON: Borough President Melinda Katz. Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you.

LEMON: I want to bring in now Howard Safir. He's a former New York City police commissioner from 1996 to 2000. Thank you for joining us, sir. Sorry about the loss of the Police Department.

HOWARD SAFIR, NEW YORK CITY POLICE, FORMER COMMISSIONER: Yes. My condolences to both the Ramos and Liu family, that's the most important thing right now.

LEMON: You have said that we have seen -- this is a quote from you. We have seen nothing but police bashing from some of the highest offices in the land. Explain that to me, Commissioner Safir.

SAFIR: Well, we've heard from the mayor. We've heard from the attorney general. We've heard from the president that people of color should always be concerned when they are confronted or interacting with police, basically saying that police forces in the United States are racists, brutal, unprofessional, and that couldn't be further from the truth.

The fact is New York City has the most diverse Police Department in the world. The probably is that you're going to be confronted by a police officer in New York. You're going to be confronted by a person with color. If you look at the -- the facts, civilian complaints have gone down for the last 10 years every year. Officer-involved shootings have gone down every year for the last 10 years.

The New York City Police Department is one of the most professional restrained Police Departments in the world, and when our leaders tell the public that they need to be afraid of police officers, this creates an atmosphere where somebody like a Brinsley, I'm not talking about blood on anybody's hands, but what I'm talking about is somebody like Brinsley, who goes on the Internet and says, "I'm going to kill police officers because of Eric Garner and Michael Brown."

LEMON: Are you inferring that what the -- what the mayor said after -- after the Eric Garner non-indictment, that he wasn't indicted, that he h as - he worries about his son and police officers? Is that what you're saying that he -- that he's...


SAFIR: That's - of course. Well, basically, what the mayor said is when my son is interacting with a police officer, he has to be afraid. And, you know, his quote was that he not only has to be afraid of criminals, he has to be concerned about the people who protect him as well and that is absolutely the wrong message. It's broad brushing 35,000 good men and women who put their lives on the line every single day, and it's just not acceptable.

LEMON: How would you have handled it?

SAFIR: How would I have handled it?


SAFIR: There was a process. I mean, we -- we have to make a distinction here, and it's a tough distinction and people get upset at us, but it's the fact. Eric Garner and Michael Brown were committing crimes. Officer Ramos and Liu were protecting the public doing their job. There's a great distinction between that.

If Michael Brown and Eric Garner had complied with the orders of the Police Department, we wouldn't be talking about this, and you know, we talk about protests. I have no problem with first amendment rights and I have no problem with protests but that doesn't mean blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. It doesn't mean 50 people running down a main street of New York City shouting "We want dead cops." That's beyond the paddle (ph).

LEMON: Commissioner, someone said that -- that the mayor should resign. Do you believe the mayor should resign?

SAFIR: No, I don't believe the mayor should resign. The mayor is legally elected. I believe what he should do is reach out to the Police Department, especially the police union. I believe he should reach out and say we have to come together because the only way the city is going to gain and not go back to 1990 when we had 2,000 murders and 60,000 car thefts and gangs ruling the street, the only way we're going to heal is when the police and the mayor can realize that the men and women of the New York City Police Department made New York City the safest large city in America.

When we talk about policing across the country, the fact is violent crime is at its lowest level in recorded history in this country and that was done by the sacrifice of men and women in uniform. We should be thanking them, not abusing them.

LEMON: Commissioner Safir, a officer called for the president of the United States to make a national day of support for police officers. Thank you, Commissioner.

SAFIR: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

SAFIR: Up next, two former police officers, including one who was with the NYPD for more than two decades weigh in on the rift between Bill de Blasio and his police force.


LEMON: Mayor Bill de Blasio said today police officers are our protectors who must be respected, but is it too little too late? Joining me now is Peter Moskos, a former police officer in Baltimore and now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and a political anchor at New York One News. You've seen him here on CNN and also Tom Verni, a former NYPD detective and you've seen him on this show.

Thank you gentlemen for joining us this evening. Very sensitive subject here. A lot of people believe that the mayor's comments and his actions really sort -- really were disrespectful and maybe ratcheted up threats against the police officers. And many think that he may have, or some I should say think that he poured fuel on a fire. Do you believe that, Tom?

TOM VERNI, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT, FORMER DETECTIVE: There's -- I think the mayor could have handled things overall I think in -- in a better way just as my own personal opinion and based on also watching the previous mayors of the city and how they've handled crises like this.

You know, under Mayor Bloomberg and under Mayor Giuliani, in a crisis situation they would have come out more even keeled. They would have waited for all the facts and -- and -- and evidence to come out in certain cases, you know, such as Staten Island. And you have to also remember that the mayor, when he ran for -- for mayor in the primaries last year, he ran a very anti-police, anti-NYPD campaign.

LEMON: He said he was going to reform the department (ph).

VERNI: He's going to reform them. It's, you know, it's mainly against stop and frisk.

LEMON: Why is that anti-PD because he said he's going to reform the department?

VERNI: Well, I -- the -- the feeling coming from him was that, you know, the police were just -- they've gone off this wrong path and they have been on -- on that wrong path for many years and you needed all these reforms and they were out of control and whatnot. And again, not to stop and frisk, didn't need to be reformed. That's fine that they did do that and now stop-and-frisk reports have dropped tremendously because of that. But the feeling on behalf of police was that it was -- you know, they were just not treated even from the get- go as...

LEMON: Before we move on, we have video of -- of the officers this weekend at the hospital turning their backs on the mayor. Would you have done that? You were what, 22 years with the department?

VERNI: Almost 22 years, yeah.

LEMON: Would you have done that?

VERNI: I think I would have done that. I think -- I think my sentiment probably would have been very much in line with everyone else there at that time. You have to also remember, the shootings just happened, you know, that the emotions are raw.


VERNI: They're running very high, and they feel that this mayor has not supported them, not only overall but even in contract negotiation, they're working four or five years without a contract.

LEMON: Errol, you have said that the killing of these two cops could not have come at a worst time. Do you - what will this mean between the relationships between the community and police?

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK CITY'S JOURNALIST: Well, it will vary from community to community. But basically, a lot of the conversation I think is now going to be muted. Today, for example, the mayor openly called on protesters to at least take a break until these officers are buried -- until these families start to heal.

LEMON: What did you make of that? Did you think that should happen?

LOUIS: Well, I thought it was probably the right thing to say. Frankly, it was probably going to happen anyway because we're going into the holidays. A cooling off period is very much needed because there's been too much angry rhetoric, too much irresponsible rhetoric, and if we just catch our breath for a couple of weeks probably a great idea. But the issues still remain. The protesters will be back, they've made that abundantly clear. The union's not backing down, they're in the middle as Tom says of a negotiation, they've got issues that they're not going to -- go to sleep on. So, he might have deferred some of these issues but these issues have got to get hashed out. This was a big, big deal during the election year last year and we haven't fully resolved them yet.

LEMON: OK. So, Peter, You informed Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was on a program on this network, CNN's New Day, and of course you know he doesn't hold back and he didn't this morning. Take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANO, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: When you see the protesters taking over the city, then all of a sudden the police get the impression you're supporting them, not him. There's no question he was supporting the protesters and not the police. And then the strange comment about his son, that he tells his son to be careful of the police.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN'S NEW DAY CO-ANCHOR: Well, his son's biracial. I mean, it sounds as though --

GIULIANO: Well, his son has a nine times greater chance of being killed by another black than a police officer. So what he should be talking to him about is hey, take care of yourself in the streets, son. Because your chance of being killed by a police officer is minuscule, your chance of being killed by another black is monumental.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So this question was for Peter, but everyone, you said --


LOUIS: He should really keep his mouth shut a little bit more.

LEMON: Your reaction was?

VERNI: Well, I know he's giving little statistics from the FBI statistics that show what the amount of black on black crime. And it is white on white crime, also obviously. But, they saw...

PETER MOSKOS, FORMER BALTIMORE POLICE OFFICER: The chance of him getting assassinated is not monumental.

VERNI: Well, not now. He's being protected by the police now. He's fine.

LEMON: But Peter, you have said that the mayor, in addition to the president, the attorney general is incorrectly being viewed as anti- police. I'm curious to know your reaction to what he said just now.

MOSKOS: A lot of this is just an ideological divide. Most cops are never going to like de Blasio just as they don't like Obama. The cops are conservative, and de Blasio and Obama are not conservative. At some point it is just as simple as that. And that's fine. This is America. We can agree to disagree. But the idea that they try to delegitimize first the president and de Blasio, they're saying he only got so many votes. More than Bloomberg ever got, by the way. He is our mayor, and there's a certain amount of dignity and respect that they owe the mayor just for, that for nothing else, but especially in this time when we're dealing with officers who are killed.

LEMON: Do you think it was okay for him to reference his son when he talked about police officers after the officer involved in the garner case was not indicted?

MOSKOS: I'm not a father. I've got to leave that one to him. I don't know. But it doesn't seem often we criticize politicians for talking about their children.

LOUIS: And I'll tell you as a father you care in a way that's very deep and very profound, as a politician, as a political leader, perfectly appropriate for him to try to connect with people. And there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, you know, there are other people who have kids, you know, and what we -- for example, Patrick Lynch (ph) the head of the unit. He's got two sons. They're both on the NYPD. I mean, we've all got to start to look at everybody's kids as everybody's responsibility. That's the conversation we need to have.

LOEMON: All right, stand by, everybody. Because coming up, what we're learning tonight about the NYPD shooter, and what went on inside the mind of a killer.


LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. I'm here with my panel, Errol Louis, Tom Verni, and also Peter Moskos, two of them former police officers and also a commentator with New York 1. We're going to continue our conversation. We're going to talk about this man, this killer who executed two New York City police officers, shooting them at point blank on a Brooklyn street in broad daylight. He had just shot his ex- girlfriend hours before. His name is Ismaaiyl Brinsley. He had a long history of emotional problems and crime. Here's a background now from CNN's Nick Valencia.


Brinsley's life was full of failure. Broken relationships and running with police.

BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK MAYOR: Career criminal, a troubled individual and a clearly deeply emotionally troubled past.

VALENCIA: After bouncing from address to address as a teen he leaves a New Jersey high school in 10th grade and drifts according to the New York Times. Traces of his troubles over the years are found in police reports that spread from Georgia to Ohio. In the last 10 years, Brinsley is arrested at least 19 times. In a 2013 police incident report in Brooklyn, New York Brinsley assaults his five months pregnant ex-girlfriend. The perp put his hand on the victim's forehead, the report says, and hit the victim on the head with his head. In another report from 2011, Brinsley opens fire on a woman's car. He later flees, only to be arrested and charged for the crime. The list of police reports goes on and on, from probation violations to petty crimes to terroristic threats, Brinsley's behavior over the years nothing short of erratic. In 2011 Brinsley confirms to a judge that he had once been a patient at a mental hospital.

ROBERT BOYCE, NYPD CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: And he tried to commit suicide about a year ago. We got that from family members.

VALENCIA: Raising the question how does a man with a history of mental issues get his hands on a gun? Police say the weapon used in the attack was purchased nearly 20 years ago at a Georgia pawn shop. How Brinsley got the gun is unclear. Seen here in this surveillance video just before the shooting, police say they believe he used a plastic bag to carry the gun. Beyond that they've released few other details. 30 minutes outside of Atlanta in Union City, Georgia, Brinsley's last known address. An acquaintance who did not want to go on camera describes the shooter as a mellow guy who was soft-spoken, a far different description of the man who posted this in one of his final messages on Instagram. "I'm putting wings on pigs today," he wrote. "They take one of ours, let's take two of theirs."

BOYCE: What we're seeing in the social media investigation, basically on Instagram he put out 119 images on his Instagram account. A lot of these things are self-despair, but they're also anti-government.

VALENCIA: Brinsley's attack has been called revenge on police for the recent high-profile deaths of two unarmed civilians. But on Monday New York's Mayor said that the killings weren't just an attack on police but an attack on us all. Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


LEMON: All right. So back on my panel, are you surprised? I know you're reporting on this and you know many of the details. But seeing them all together like that.

LOUIS: Yeah, well, it paints a portrait of a ticking time bomb. The thing is it's not that indistinguishable from many, many other people who have various emotional and mental illness issues. I think what's really distinctive is that he had a history of violence and the psychiatrist that I interviewed earlier today told me that that's the thing you should really look at. Lots of people have mental illness. Lots of people have emotional illness, it doesn't make them dangerous. In fact, it makes them more likely to be a victim far more so than a perpetrator. But when you see the violence start to manifest itself -- that's what we need to...

LEMON: Why is he out on the streets? This is -- I want you to hear this, this is from his family it's new tonight from Ismaaiyl Brinsley's family. Take a listen.


family. You know...


J. BRINSLEY: We give our condolences to the family.

ALEDGE: We're grieving, and we're very sorry.

J. BRINSLEY: This has nothing to do with police retaliation. This was a troubled, emotionally troubled kid. He needed help. He didn't get it. And if he got arrested this many times, that was a question, like why wouldn't they help him out in but they kept releasing him...


J.BRINSLEY: into the streets. So isn't that a problem that the justice system should be asking? Not us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Good question. That was his sister and his aunt, by the way.

Our affiliate WCBS. Good question. Is it retaliation? And is this a question that the justice system should be answering, tom?

VERNI: Why is this guy out? Why was he out? He's a 28-year-old guy arrested 19 times, it's a career criminal. Clearly, he's got a few screws loose. Anyone who's going to go and assassinate two police officers, must have -- doesn't have a full deck on them. So, -- and you know, he's posting this on his Instagram account, that he's going to come up and do this. That along with the fact that when you have protesters running through the streets of the city chanting, "what do we want, dead cops, when do we want it, now," all it takes is one guy with a screw loose with a weapon to do a lot of damage.

LEMON: So you think the protesters -- go ahead.

MOSKOS: I mean, look, those kind of -- when that happened with the protesters that was the low point of the protest along with the cop being attacked. There were tens of thousands of people protesting peacefully and to say somehow this is the protesters fault or it says de Blasio's fault or Obama's fault, this is the fault of the mental health system, this is the fault of the access to guns, this is the fault of the criminal justice system. I mean, it doesn't take rocket science to figure out this guy was crazy. It's been out there. It's not an issue of protesters.

LOUIS: A big part of the problem is we're using criminal justice as the mental health system. There are far more people behind bars who need mental health than are in mental health institutions. We're -- giving them the wrong kind of treatment. You don't lock up somebody because they have mental health needs. You've got to treat them, -- in prison or not.

LEMON: So you're saying -- it's everybody's saying it's a problem of the mental health system. You're saying that in some ways do you think that the circumstances that led up to this somehow motivated this man to shoot two police officers?

VERNI: Well, again, when you have -- so we have the Staten Island verdict -- the grand jury verdict. These protests started taking place. I don't have a problem with people protesting. Everybody has a right to protest. I don't have a problem with that. But in a city of New York, especially Manhattan, when you have thousands of people running through the city with no destination in sight, just -- you know, rambling through the city at will, it's for more reasons than one, it's a safety hazard. Somebody's going to get hit by a wayward cab or potentially stop an ambulance from going to where they need to go with a guy having a heart attack in there, when they blocking the Brooklyn bridge.

MOSKOS: You blame the protesters for the shooting of his ex- girlfriend?

VERNI: What I'm blaming this whole scenario I think is a matter of -- manifestation of the passiveness of the mayor, of not coming out sooner and calling for calm and calling for people to rely on the facts and the evidence, which is what the grand jury saw in Staten island. That they saw all these things we didn't see and they deemed this officer shouldn't be indicted. Whether you agree with that or not is one thing. But that's what they deemed.

LOUIS: Why -- you know the problem, the problem is you can't tell people not to exercise their first amendment right to protest.

VERNI: Not at all.

LOUIS: Because it might set a crazy person off. That is -- that's just not reasonable. That's not reality.

VERNI: No, but in the mind of someone like this when you have -- you know, again, protesters that are just able to run through the city aimlessly with no directions and where the police are not able to police that event properly and safely --

MOSKOS: But the police did a good job policing the event.


LEMON: I've got to ask you this and again, the people who are out peacefully protesting, it is their right. Everyone -- I believe --

VERNI: Absolutely.


LEMON: We're talking about the few who cause violence.

LOUIS: Right.

LEMON: I said on The Situation Room tonight, that I've lived in New York City off and on since 1990. I've never seen someone who was brazen enough to go up and hit a police officer while cameras are rolling, as we saw on the Brooklyn Bridge and other places. You talked about the attitude or the atmosphere that sort of precipitated this from the top.

VERNI: It's a top down mindset.

LEMON: You think that that would have happened, the same things would be happening under Giuliani, under Bloomberg, under Dinkins --

VERNI: I don't think so.

LEMON: Under Koch? (ph)

MOSKOS: More cops were getting killed back then.

VERNI: Well, crime back in the early '90s, we had 2,300 people being murdered in the city as well but things have changed --

MOSKOS: Job well done.

LOUIS: There have been demonstrators who wanted to even sabotage others or go out and commit violence. That is not something new. What is new is that it even happened and what we've all got cell phones --

LEMON: And that's not specific to this administration is what you're saying. Yeah.

VERNI: It's an air of permissiveness that seems -- that the mayor is -- like this is Woodstock and it's like let's go out and just do what we want and who cares how many people, especially cops get hurt because they're the abusive NYPD.

LEMON: Alright, in your -- in your opinion.

VERNI: In my opinion.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you, gentlemen, we'll be right back.


LEMON: Before the cold-blooded execution of two New York City police officers tensions were high between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police department. Now things are suddenly much worse. Joining me now to discuss this is Frank Rich, Writer-at-large for New York magazine. It's much worse, right?

FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE FOR NEW YORK MAGAZINE: It is. But I think it's worse in the sense of reflects of what's going on not just in New York or in Baltimore for that matter but the whole country. I think we've become the flash point because of these horrific crimes committed here. But, you know...

LEMON: The mayor said that the -- an attack on two police officers is an attack on every one of us. Is there anything that he can do now to calm this situation? Is there anything he can do?

RICH: No. I think frankly if the mayor of New York were a combination of, you know, FDR and Fiorello La Guardia and Jesus Christ he could not solve what is a serious problem with the police and the population. Not just the police and the mayor. That's the least of it in a way. The mayor is -- I think a relatively minor figure in this whole drama.

LEMON: But he's an important figure in the city of New York. The whole world is watching. You see the officers, how they responded to him, turning their backs on him as he walks into a meeting, as he walks, you know -- I've never seen that.

RICH: But the police didn't love a Bloomberg. They didn't love Giuliani. They didn't love David Dinkins. But what does that -- that's a bit of political theater, and it makes de Blasio, I guess look bad it also makes possibly the police look bad. But what does that accomplish in terms of the root situation here, where we have in the aftermath of the Eric Garner -- non -- the non-indictment, in that case a very angry public. Some crazy people with going over the top but a genuine angry public, that's also normal law-abiding citizens who feel mistreated by this police force.

LEMON: First we saw the punching of a police officer at a protest in the city, remember then we saw an altercation with two police officers on the bridge. There have been mostly peaceful protests which the mayor pointed out in the press conference with the police commissioner. But then we also see this happening and we hear protesters saying some very ugly things about, about the police. We've never seen people brazen enough to do that, especially in the proliferation of cell phones and cameras, to actually strike or punch a police officer in public. I've never seen that. Have you?

RICH: No. Not since the late '60s. I mean, you know, it's -- it's terrible and it shouldn't happen. On the other hand, we have people who are angry who are protesters who are not doing that who feel that the police got away with murder in the case of Eric Garner.

LEMON: What would you like to see? You've been around these parts for a while. What would you like to see?

RICH: I think there has to be genuine outreach between the police, I think, Bill Bratton -- forget about de Blasio for a second. I don't think Bratton has done a particularly good job of managing the force or conveying any kind of outreach to the people who are genuinely agreed who are not nuts -- you know, about what's going on since, since the Eric garner case.

LEMON: But the mayor has confidence in him because, this is his second time becoming commissioner and he's actually the person who put -- or one of the people who put stop and frisk into play when he was commissioner the first time.

RICH: Yeah, I think this is all screwed up. I think obviously Bratton is not effective. He may be part of the problem, not the solution. Then you have a mayor in the case of de Blasio who is not a brilliant manager, is not a great communicator. So they're all muddying it, and all of that could be improved. But I would just argue that the underlying issues are so severe and the issues that have sort of -- all across the country, from Ferguson, as you know, on in Cleveland, these issues are so explosive a management change in the city of New York is not going to solve it.

LEMON: Former New York Governor George Pataki tweeted this after the attack. He said, "Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio #NYPD." What do you make of this?

RICH: Well, I think that's just pouring gasoline on the flames. And let's just say someone -- heaven help us, someone takes a shot at Eric Holder or Bill de Blasio, should Governor Pataki be held accountable? Should the police union rhetoric be held accountable for something like that? This is going to be an escalating situation. That's -- in its way as bad as the worst of the protesters inciting -- trying to incite violence. And that's exactly what they're doing.

LEMON: I wanted to get you here last week but unfortunately you were not available to talk about Sony and breathtaking with that -- the hackers of Sony.

RICH: Unbelievable. LEMONM: Are we going to see more of this, do you think?

RICH: I'm convinced if we have learned nothing over the past couple of years, it is that no -- institution that we think of as invulnerable, whether it be Sony Pictures Corporation, JPMorgan Chase, the NSA, the White House, the post office, Home Depot, Target, they've all been hacked by various different culprits. And so cyber warfare is a real thing, and if they can bring major corporations or even government agencies to their knees, and we're powerless basically to stop it, in some cases to even identify who -- the villains are, it's a serious issue.

LEMON: Do you think that not releasing the movie that Sony capitulated, that the movie companies who wouldn't run it, the theater companies who didn't run it, did they capitulate? Is it blackmail or terror?

RICH: It's terror. I mean, everyone, everyone capitulated because, first of all no, movie chains wanted to show it. Comcast announced it wouldn't stream it or put it on demand. That's the largest cable provider in the country. And then you know, damn well, that if Sony had found five theaters, five Cineplex's that wanted to show The Interview, the other studios would have said, "Oh, not where you're playing our movie, our Christmas movie that we need to make a lot of money in the theater next door." The department store in that mall would have said, "No, we don't want it." So everyone -- it was an effective act of terror.

LEMON: Damned if they did, damned if they didn't, right so?

RICH: Yeah.

LEMON: On Sony's part.

RICH: Yeah.

LEMON: Yeah, Thank you.

RICH: Thank you.

LEMON: Happy holidays.

RICH: Same to you.

LEMON: Always a pleasure. Good to see you. We'll be right back.


LEMON: So you heard from the heroes of The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps tonight, for more on their work go to B-as in boy, S-as in Sam, V-as in Victor, A- as in apple, C-as in Charlie dot org, That's it for us tonight. Thanks for joining us. I'm Don Lemon. I'll see you back here tomorrow night. AC360" starts right now.