By Mark Wachtler
December 26, 2014. Baltimore. (ONN) Baltimore police confirmed they were monitoring and following Ismaaiyl Abdula Brinsley via the GPS on his smart phone as he snuck up on two NYPD officers and shot them both to death while they sat in their squad car earlier this week. Baltimore officials also confirm their NSA-style anti-terror tactics worked. Unfortunately, New York City police weren’t as up to the task and couldn’t communicate the real-time warning to their officers due to obsolete procedures and equipment.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Police were tracking his movements via GPS as he killed 2 NYPD officers earlier this week. Image courtesy of NYDailyNews.com.
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What makes the tragic murders of two NY police officers on a Brooklyn street even more disheartening is that Baltimore police were using the shooter’s cell phone to track his movements down to the inch and were desperately trying to warn their counterparts in New York. Unfortunately, NYPD didn’t receive the fax until two minutes before Brinsley executed NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The question some are now asking - why is the city of New York still using fax machines and teletype to warn about terror attacks?
For Eric Garner
As detailed by the Baltimore Sun, at 5:51am Saturday, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Abdula Brinsley shot and critically injured his 29-year-old girlfriend Shaneka Nicole Thompson in Baltimore County, Maryland. He then posted fatally threatening messages on social media telling the world he was now going to kill some police officers in retribution for the police-induced death of Staten Island’s Eric Garner. Garner was an unarmed, 43-year-old black male allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a public sidewalk.
Unlike some arrestees who refuse to put their hands up, the large, tall, strong Eric Garner refused to put his hands down. He was in a perpetual position of surrender but physically refused to allow himself to be hand-cuffed. The ensuing struggle resulted in Garner’s choking death at the hands of five NYPD officers. A Grand Jury has since refused to file charges of any kind against the officers.
Putting wings on pigs
Immediately after shooting his girlfriend, Ismaaiyl Brinsley stole the victim’s cell phone and boarded a public bus northbound on I-95 out of Baltimore. Baltimore County Police activated the phone’s GPS tracking and authorities followed Brinsley in real-time as the bus traveled out of Maryland. They notified the Maryland State Police, whose jurisdiction includes interstates like I-95, at 7:45am. By that time however, the armed assailant’s bus was leaving Maryland and entering New Jersey.
From 8:30am to 10:30am, Maryland police tracked Ismaaiyl Brinsley as the bus traveled through New Jersey and into New York State. At 1:30pm, Baltimore police detectives discovered the messages on social media posted by Brinsley earlier in the day threatening to kill police officers. One of the messages posted to Instagram read, “I'm Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours…Let's Take 2 of Theirs. #ShootThePolice #RIPEricGardner #RIPMikeBrown. This May Be My Final Post.”
Baltimore County police finally put two and two together, with Brinsley just crossing into New York, seven hours after posting the fatal warning online for the whole world to see. Authorities immediately reactivated their cell phone tracking system, finding Ismaaiyl Brinsley in Brooklyn, NY. Authorities say it took them only 15 minutes to create an electronic ‘Wanted’ flier and accompanying details to send to New York police.
At 2:10pm, Baltimore police made contact with New York police inside Brooklyn’s 60th police precinct. They warned the NYPD that they had a wanted shooting assailant who was believed to be in Brooklyn. They also informed their New York counterparts of the fact that Brinsley was armed and had posted threats of death to police officers online earlier that morning.
Sorry, wrong number
After explaining the situation to an officer at NYPD’s 60th precinct in Brooklyn, the calling Baltimore police were informed that the GPS-provided location of Ismaaiyl Brinsley placed him in New York’s 70th precinct, not the 60th precinct. In other words, they were told they had the wrong number. Baltimore police were given the phone number to neighboring 70th precinct, and they went through the whole routine again with a whole new set of NYPD officers.
After spending 36 minutes explaining to Brooklyn police what was going on, including NYPD officers accessing Brinsley’s Instagram account and viewing the death threats against police themselves, Baltimore police faxed a picture of Ismaaiyl Brinsley and the ‘Wanted’ information to New York police officers inside the 70th precinct in Brooklyn. Authorities from both jurisdictions were optimistic because the stolen phone’s GPS tracking showed Brinsley’s movements had stopped and he was sitting still in one location, a perfect opportunity to apprehend him.
What they didn’t know was that Ismaaiyl Brinsley had discarded the stolen cell phone over an hour before. At 2:46pm, the fax of the picture and Wanted poster from Baltimore rolled out of the NYPD’s fax machine in Brooklyn’s 70th precinct. Two minutes later, at 2:48pm, Ismaaiyl Brinsley executed two New York police officers, a couple miles away from where police were being dispatched due to the false location provided by the discarded phone’s GPS. After fatally shooting the two officers, Brinsley ran to a near-by subway station to escape. As police closed in on him, he fatally shot himself.
Criticisms and excuses
Almost immediately after word was announced that the NYPD had relied on a fax machine and a teletype to receive and distribute an urgent terror alert, critics slammed city officials for relying on 1970’s technology in the 21st century. Many wonder where the hundreds of billions of anti-terror funding went over the past 13 years if not to upgrade the emergency communications equipment of the largest city in America and home to the 9/11 attacks. New York officials however, dismissed the criticism insisting they did everything right.
“All things were done exactly the way they were supposed to,” NY Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a Monday press conference, “We had a document to move on. One minute after that document was faxed, the double-homicide occurred. There was no lapse on anybody's part.”
Doug Ward, Director of Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University’s Public Safety Dept, told the Baltimore Sun that their Baltimore County Police actually did a good job in their performance. If anything, it was the actions of New York police that was lacking. “There's always room for improvement,” Ward told the local outlet, noting that the amount of work done by the Baltimore police, including locating and tracking a stolen cell phone in real time, was “actually pretty quick. It's a shame it wasn't sooner.”
During the Monday press conference, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton dodged questions about why there was little evidence of the NYPD’s $400 million technology upgrade. “In terms of timeliness and the current state of the art for advancing information between agencies, we're continuing trying to find better ways to improve that,” Bratton conceded, “We're spending a huge amount of money on technology for this department.”