Seeking Answers in Shooting Death of Two NYPD Officers

Police are untangling what happened when they say shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley attacked two cops in Brooklyn.
6:29 | 12/23/14

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Transcript for Seeking Answers in Shooting Death of Two NYPD Officers
New York City's mayor is asking for help keeping the peace tonight in the backlash after two NYPD officers were shot dead while sitting in their patrol car. Their attacker reportedly claimed he was getting pay back for the lives of Eric garner and Mike brown. Now, as our nation continues to wrestle with race and justice, one grieving city tries to heal. A violent ambush. Followed by a political firestorm. That's blood on the hands and it starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor. Reporter: Tonight, so many mourn the loss of two of new York City's finest, at the hands of a man vowing to avenge the recent deaths of two unarmed black men, Eric garner and Michael brown, whose killings by police officers sparked nationwide anti-police protests. The assassination of these two officers was an attack on the city of New York as a whole, on every one of us, on our values, on our democracy. Reporter: It was an attack in broad daylight. The officers shot dead Saturday at point-blank range. Shots fired. Reporter: Their attacker has been identified at 28-year-old ismaaiyl brinsley, a New York native, who police and family say had a history of mental illness and at least 19 prior arrests. Authorities believe brinsley's rampage began in the early hours Saturday morning, in Baltimore, when he allegedly shot his former girlfriend in the stomach inside her own home. He then boarded a bus from Baltimore to New York, arriving at 10:50 A.M. Seen here in surveillance video, his gun, shorts believe, to be inside that bag. At about 1:30 P.M., he posts a warning on instagram, quote, I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take one of ours, let's take two of theirs. He added hash tacks, shoot the police, plus the names of Mike brown and Eric garner. Baltimore police alert the NYPD, faxing over this mug shot, only two minutes before brinsley opened fire. According to the NYPD, the officers were on their lunch break when brinsley walked up to the passenger side of their patrol car and fired four shots. Shots fired. Shots fired. Reporter: Police swarm the scene. Rushing the officers to an ambulance, as S.W.A.T. Teams chase a fleeing brinsley to a nearby subway station. Get on the floor. Reporter: Still armed with a semiautomatic handgun, where officials say brinsley shot himself in the head. One person is shot. Reporter: All three men were pronounced dead. Yet a curious choice of victims here. Brinsley cited the Michael brown and Eric garner dixes as his motivation for the killings. Both cases that focus on a white cop, a black victim. But the police officers brinsley kills, one asian-american, one hispanic. He didn't even know who was in that car. Reporter: As former police commissioner, ABC contributor ray Kelly knows very well the dangers officer face. It was about blue? I think it was just because they were wearing a uniform, they were targeted. Reporter: Today, New York mayor bill de Blasio and police commissioner bill Bratton visited the homes of both families, both reeling from shock just day bfrs Christmas. On Facebook, one of officer Ramos' sons posted this, "Today, I had to say bye to my father. He was the best father I could ask for. It's horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer." Officer liu's widow spoke tonight. This is a difficult time for both of our families. But we will stand together and get through this together. Reporter: Since the attack, officers in New York and surrounding cities have been pleased on alert. Since the incident, we've received a number of what I would describe as copy cat types of threats. Reporter: Many mourners have visited the fallen officer's makeshift memorials to pay their respects. Notably among them, Eric garner's daughter emerald, who today, made it clear her family wants nothing to do with violence against police. I just had to come out and let the family know that we stand with them and I want to send my prayers and my condolences to the families who are suffering. Reporter: Her own family's tragedy ignited a cry of outrage after a grand jury exonerated the police officers who killed her father. Feel conflicted at all, given they are NYPD officers? I don't feel conflicted. It was never anti-police. Reporter: In the wake of the demonstrations that took over city streets, NYPD leaders feel the mayor was too sympathetic towards the anti-police protesters. Saturday, when the mayor visited the hospital to pay his respects to the fallen officers' families, a group of police officers turned their backs on him in protest. The experience of this man in terms of some cops not liking him, is nothing new. It's part of life. It's part of politics. Reporter: Bill Bratton fully supports the mayor as they work together to investigate this crime. At this point, they believe brinlsley acted alone. Police say he was a troubled man isolated from friends and family. He was prone to angry rants against the government on social media. And appears to have latched onto an extreme anti-police cause. The focus is on the police because of what they represent. They represent society, they represent law and order. And to be quiet blunt, they are just easy targets, because they're in uniform, in a marked car, and they're everywhere. Reporter: New statistics of police death show that compared to last year, officers killed in the line of duty have surged by 23%. But those killed by firearms up a staggering 58%. Saturday's shooting stands out for a critical reason. Advance majority of officers losing their lives are losing it in direct confrontation. But what happened on Saturday, I mean, these officers had absolutely no chance, no awareness. It is significant. Reporter: Candles are burns bright as the city mourns two of those sworn to protect and serve, who became victims of a senseless crime. In this tragedy, maybe we find some way of moving forward. That it would be an appropriate way to honor these fallen officers and their families that are in pain right now. Somehow knit our city together.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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