The Many Identities of the Killer of Two New York Officers Shows a Life Marked by Wrong Turns

© Kirsten Luce for The New York Times After Shakuwra Dabre, Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s mother, and his father broke up when he was about 9, she said she struggled to raise him.
© Kirsten Luce for The New York Times After Shakuwra Dabre, Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s mother, and his father broke up when he was about 9, she said she struggled to raise him.

His entire life, Ismaaiyl Brinsley tried on identities as if they were new clothes. He was a bad boy with a gun, a fashionable man in Gucci and Cartier, a T-shirt maker, a film director, a screenwriter, a devout Muslim, a rap producer.

He had a nickname for every mood — Moses, Interstate, Palace, Gazava, Scorpio King, Bleau Barracuda. Online, he seemed to be screaming at people to pay attention. “Welcome To Greatness,” proclaimed a photo album on his Facebook page.

In reality, Mr. Brinsley’s short life was a series of disappointments.

He was the difficult teenager who was passed around like a bad seed, the adult who could make nothing work, not a T-shirt company, not even an attempt on his own life at a former girlfriend’s house.

Everyone seemed to betray him. The friends who pistol-whipped and robbed him in May. The girlfriend who dumped him around Thanksgiving.

In recent weeks, Mr. Brinsley was unraveling, increasingly desperate, the gap between the life he wanted at age 28 and the life he had looming ever larger. If he couldn’t get it together, he told the mother of his second child in early December, he would kill himself.

On his last day, Dec. 20. he started out with that intention. He visited his former girlfriend Shaneka Thompson in suburban Baltimore. He pointed a silver Taurus 9-millimeter pistol at his head. Ms. Thompson talked him out of it, she would later tell the police, and then he shot her. Panicked and convinced that his life was now over, Mr. Brinsley decided to return to Brooklyn, the place he considered home.

What he did next — shooting Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as they sat in their patrol car, before killing himself — became the accelerant in what would become a major confrontation between the police union and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

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Source: The New York Times | KIM BARKER, MOSI SECRET, RICHARD FAUSSET

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