The deadly shootings of two NYPD officers sitting in their patrol car Saturday in Brooklyn had "absolutely nothing to do with police retaliation," according to the gunman's sister, who says the shooter with a long rap record was emotionally troubled and disturbed.
"The way he did this was horrifying," said Jalaa'i Brinsley, the sister of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who fatally shot Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as they sat in their squad car in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
But, she told reporters Monday, "He was emotionally troubled. It had nothing to do with police retaliation. Absolutely nothing to do with police retaliation."
Brinsley had posted anti-police messages on social media, invoking the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, hours before the shooting, according to police. He then told bystanders in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood "watch what I'm going to do" before fatally shooting officers Liu and Ramos, then running into a subway station and fatally shooting himself in the head.
Brinsley's family said he was not a longtime crusader against police, but a mentally ill, suicidal man who targeted the NYPD as a way of taking his own life.
"This was him just lashing out at his own anger," his aunt Ann Arledge told NBC New York. "He was angry, troubled child."
Police officials said Monday that investigation so far has revealed that Brinsley had gone on anti-government, anti-police tirades on social media for months before the shootings. One video out of the thousands of images recovered from his cellphone in Maryland appeared to capture protests at Union Square Park on Dec. 1 from the perspective of a spectator, according to police Monday.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley had been arrested nine times since 2004, according to court records cited by the Baltimore Sun. The charges ranged from carrying a concealed weapon to trespassing. He was convicted of disorderly conduct and shoplifting, according to records at the Fulton County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office.
In a pleaded questionnaire, the 28-year-old answered "yes" to a question that asked "Have you ever been a patient in a mental institution or under the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist?" the newspaper reports. No other information was provided on the care he received.
Brinsley violated probation for several years by failing to check in with his parole officer and failing to complete court-ordered screenings for drug and alcohol abuse, the Sun reported.
Jalaa'i Brinsley told NBC 4 New York Monday she believes the shootings stemmed from a mental health services issue.
"If he got arrested this many times, that was a question," she said. "Why wouldn't they help him out, but they kept releasing him into the streets -- so isn't that a problem that the justice system should be asking?"
"He should have been offered help in the system but he wasn't," she said.
Jalaa'i Brinsley would not comment on reports that her brother made contact with his mother before killing the two officers.
"I'd rather not speak about that because it can go into some deep things," she said.
But a family friend said he believes Brinsley called his mother before the shootings and that he sounded "distraught."
"We did speak and she told me she was worried about him. He sounded suicidal," said Tony Lindsay.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday that Brinsley's family told police that he tried to commit suicide a year ago.
Brinsley is described as a nomad, given history in Georgia, Ohio and Baltimore. Law enforcement sources say his 11-month-old child lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant with the child's mother. Brinsley's mother is also thought to live in Crown Heights.
Brinsley shot and injured a former girlfriend in Baltimore early Saturday before fleeing to New York on a bus, but he had no criminal record in Maryland, authorities said.
The Baltimore Sun also reported that Brinsley left high school in the 10th grade and exhibited a history of odd behavior and violent threats.