“Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification,” the president, vacationing in Hawaii, said in a statement. “The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day - and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day.”
Earlier in the day, a White House official told reporters while the president was golfing that he had been briefed on the incident, and that aides were continuing to monitor the situation.
And both Attorney General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch — the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York who has been nominated by Obama to replace Holder — pledged all available federal resources to investigate the killings.
“I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of this afternoon’s brutal and senseless attack on two NYPD Officers, and I join Attorney General Holder in expressing my deepest condolences to the families of these fallen heroes,” Lynch said in a statement.
New York City police commissioner William Bratton said Saturday that the two officers, Wenjin Liu and Raphael Ramos, were shot without warning while sitting in their police cruiser. The suspect, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, then ran to a nearby subway station and fatally shot himself.
Bratton said Brinsley had shot his ex-girlfriend earlier Saturday in Baltimore, and posted messages to his social media accounts “which were very anti-police.”
A series of pictures posted by the New York Post and other media outlets purportedly show posts to Brinkley’s Instagram account referencing Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men recently killed in confrontations with white police officers. In both cases, grand juries declined to bring charges.
Those decisions sparked a series of nationwide protests, and calls from President Obama to improve relations between police and the communities they serve. Last week, Obama signed an executive order creating a task force designed to consider that issue.
But some critics — including former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican — said the shooting was the result of Democratic politicians embracing criticism of police tactics.
Holder, for his part, used his statement in the aftermath of the shooting to again call for improving relations.
"Our nation must always honor the valor — and the sacrifices — of all law enforcement officers with a steadfast commitment to keeping them safe,” he said. “This means forging closer bonds between officers and the communities they serve, so that public safety is not a cause that is served by a courageous few, but a promise that's fulfilled by police officials and citizens working side by side."