The New York Police Department says a gunman who ambushed two officers in their car told two passers-by to "watch what I'm going to do." Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce says 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley talked to people on the street just moments before the shooting and told them to follow him on the social media site Instagram. Boyce said Brinsley had a criminal history with at least 19 arrests and his family told police he tried to hang himself last year. Brinsley approached a parked squad car from behind yesterday and opened fire, fatally striking two officers before killing himself. Hours earlier, he had shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home outside Baltimore. Boyce says Brinsley had ranted online about police and government and expressed despair about his own life.
Meanwhile, big-city police departments and union leaders warned officers today to change up their routines and insist on extra backup. The siege mentality was evident in several memos circulating among the rank and file at the 35,000-officer New York Police Department, the nation's largest. A union-generated message warned police officers they should respond to every radio call with two cars—"no matter what the opinion of the patrol supervisor"—and to not make arrests "unless absolutely necessary." Another directive warned officers in Newark, NJ, not to patrol alone and avoid people looking for confrontations. At the same time, a memo from an NYPD chief asked officers to avoid fanning rage within the ranks by limiting comments "to expressions of sorrow and condolence. ... Even in our most difficult times, we will remain consummate professionals." (Read more police stories.)