The news: Authorities say Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two NYPD officers on Saturday, in what the shooter's Instagram account appeared to confirm was in retaliation for the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner at the hands of police.
Hours after their deaths, police unions and certain conservative allies are taking the slayings as deadly confirmation of what they've believed all along: Protesters and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are abandoning the NYPD at a time when its public perception is at an unprecedented low.
The deaths have turned de Blasio's already-tense relationship with the NYPD into a full-blown crisis, with police unions pointing the finger at the mayor for siding with protesters. Those tensions came to a visceral head when police officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he walked into a police press conference Saturday:
Strong words: The Sergeants Benevolent Association, one of several police union groups that has a rocky history with the mayor, blamed de Blasio directly for the attacks, tweeting:
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch made similar comments, saying, "That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall, in the office of the mayor."
"There's blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day," Lynch said. "We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated. ... Those who allowed this to happen will be held accountable."
Earlier in the week, Lynch told officers to use "extreme discretion" in the course of their duties and urged police officers to sign an affidavit telling the mayor to stay away from their funerals.
More responses: Elsewhere, some officers literally turned their backs on the mayor as he gave a statement about the shootings. On CNN, retired NYPD detective Harry Houck wasted little time blaming Al Sharpton for the shootings, saying the protests of previous weeks were "predicated on lies" and that Sharpton "got what he wanted."
Former Republican New York Gov. George E. Pataki also took the opportunity to attack de Blasio and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, tweeting that the officers' deaths were the "predictable outcome" of de Blasio and Holder's "divisive anti-cop rhetoric."
According to ThinkProgress, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the deaths the result of "four months of propaganda" and attacked de Blasio and President Barack Obama for telling citizens to "hate the police."
"The protests, even the ones that don't lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion," Giuliani said. "The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong."
The mayor's response: Faced with what the Nation is referring to as a "cop coup," de Blasio's office had little patience for criticism.
"It's unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people," mayoral spokesman Phil Walzak said in a statement. "Mayor de Blasio understands this is the time when we must come together to support the families and friends of those brave officers New York City lost tonight — and the entire NYPD community."
As the mayor and the police trade blows, the fraught situation seems destined to get worse, with the rhetoric getting uglier. The murder of two officers is a terrible crime, but if the outcome is an even more reactionary police department that considers itself at "wartime" and conflates peaceful protest with deliberate incitement, the city will be even less safe. That's bad for citizens and cops, and a bad omen for positive change in the NYPD.