New York: Prayer vigil and calls for peace after police officers killed

Police stand solemn at a late night vigil on Sunday night at the makeshift memorial where two police officers were shot in the head in Brooklyn, New York.Reuters

Family and friends of the two New York police officers killed on Saturday have responded by attending a candlelight vigil on Sunday evening and calling for peace.

Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were shot in the head while they were sitting inside a police patrol car in Brooklyn.

The suspected gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, indicated on social media before the attack that he wanted to kill two policemen in the wake of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases, where police had killed unarmed black men.

Brinsley, who has a criminal record, reportedly shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, before travelling to New York, and after shooting the officers, later killed himself in a New York subway station.

Liu, who had been a police officer for seven years, got married just a few months ago. Ramos was married with two children, and known as a devoted family man and Christian.

According to the Wall Street Journal Ramos' cousin, Ronnie Gonzalez, said: "My cousin had a couple of priorities in his life. One was God, because he was a God-loving man.

"I wish I could be half the man my cousin was," Gonzalez added. "He was sweet. He didn't die."

His aunt, Lucy Ramos, said in a statement that she hoped they could "move forward and find an amicable path to a peaceful coexistence."

Ramos was also due to be commissioned as a lay chaplain on the day that he was killed.

Rev Marcos Miranda, the president of the New York State Chaplain Task Force where Ramos was training to become a chaplain, told the Christian Post: "I will remember his kindness the most — even the kindness in his eyes — in our talks, he asked what I thought of him being a police officer, and I said it was an honourable job. He said he thought it was ministry because he was helping those in need.

"He never thought he could be a chaplain, he saw himself doing this type of ministry after he retired from the NYPD. He was very excited about that possibility," Miranda said.

People sing as they take part in a prayer vigil at the site where two police officers were shot.Reuters

Ramos' 13-year-old son, Jaden, said on Facebook: "He was the best father I could ask for. It's horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. I will always love you and I will never forget you. RIP Dad."

On Sunday, both the Garner and Brown families condemned the use of violence in fighting for justice.

"I'm standing here in sorrow about losing these two police officers. That was definitely not our agenda. We are going in peace and anyone who is standing with us, we want you to not use Eric Garner's name for violence, because we are not about that," said Gwen Carr, Garner's mother.

Michael Brown's family said in a statement: "We reject any kind of violence directed towards members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated."

According to the New York Observer, New York's Roman Catholic cardinal, Timothy Dolan, said at a service on Sunday: "We worry about a city tempted to tension and division."

"Here we are anticipating the joy of Christmas, and we feel like we're nearer to Good Friday," he said.

He told police commissioner Bill Bratton, who was at the service, to tell the NYPD: "we love them very much, we mourn with them, we need them, we respect them, we're proud of them and we thank them."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has faced significant criticism today, sought to ease tensions with the police by calling for a suspension of protests until after the officers' funerals.

"It's a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things we will talk about in due time," de Blasio said in a speech today. "Let's comfort these families, let's see them through these funerals. Then debate can begin again."

President Barack Obama joined the calls for peace, saying on Saturday night: "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. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen."