The New York Times does a fine job of piecing together the life of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who shot and killed two cops in New York last month. Brinsley's life was a mess, and he never focused on much of anything for very long; anti-cop violence gave him meaning at the very end of his life, but if he had a deep-seated agenda of political rage before that, no one who knew him seems to have noticed.
... [His mother, Shakuwra] Dabre, struggling and broke, couldn’t handle him. So he bounced around: to his father’s, to a school in California, to New Jersey when his father moved there, to Atlanta with Ms. Dabre after he was sexually abused and tried to kill himself when he was about 14, to the apartment of a sister and her boyfriend, to a group home for troubled boys, to his sister again. Ismaaiyl learned to live on a couch. He was so estranged at times from his mother that she wasn’t certain where he went to high school....He posted anti-police messages online in the months before the murders, but friends don't remember him talking about the police this way. And after he shot his girlfriend, a few hours before killing the cops, he got in touch with his mother and sister, and his mother thought she was his next target.
He became a hustler. Mr. Brinsley was a name-brand thief, accused of stealing things like a pair of rhinestone-studded women’s Fendi frames, a brown Gucci belt....
He aspired to be a ladies’ man....
“He was a real good dresser,” said Muller St-Cyr, a hip-hop artist from Brooklyn. “Like, the stuff he would wear, females would post on his Instagram, ‘Uh oh, Denzel Washington.’ Females, they were shocked. What was presented online was far from the reality. No one knew he was messed up the way he was messed up.”
Mr. Brinsley used social media to network, to figure out places to go, friends said. He went to Ohio, to Las Vegas, to Florida, mainly moving by bus, always looking for a place to stay....
Some of his long list of petty crimes were simply bizarre. In June 2009, he was arrested in Springfield, Ohio, after stealing a pair of scissors, a power inverter and some Trojan condoms from a Rite Aid. When a security guard confronted him, Mr. Brinsley ran to a nearby hotel. Police found him near the laundry room, trying to take out his braids.
But other incidents highlighted his quick temper. By early 2010, Mr. Brinsley had been arrested twice for threatening women. He had allegedly threatened to kill one woman, then found her four days later and threw a drink at her. He threatened a Waffle House employee who asked him to leave, and tried to punch her.
For the most part, his family was estranged. His mother was back in Brooklyn and rarely saw him. His father had little to do with him. “SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A MOTHER-LESS CHILD,” he wrote on Facebook during this time.
By 2011, he was on Twitter as the “Scorpio King.” His missives were aspirational (“Rise and grind! Another day, more dollars”); revealing (“I Almost Got Shot At Point Blank Range A Few Moments Ago”) and contradictory (“IN ALLAH I TRUST” followed by one mentioning “3 Condoms” and “I Love Myself!!!!”)...
The politics of it all was in the air, but he doesn't seem to have been seriously political. He was raised a Muslim, but he seems to have been only fitfully religious. The key point is that he was a wounded guy full of free-floating anxiety, insecurity, and anger; he found a peg to hang all this on and killed two cops.
Now, you can accept that -- which doesn't offer much in the way of satisfying answers -- or you can find a convenient, familiar scapegoat for the shooting. This is from the Daily Caller (via Fox Nation):
Louis Farrakhan Urged ‘Retaliation’ For Michael Brown A Month Before Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley Executed NYPD CopsDid Brinsley even know that this speech had taken place? The Caller article offers no evidence that he did. All we're told is: Farrakhan is a Muslim who's angry about the deaths of blacks at the hands of police; so was Brinsley. Implication: You know those damn Muslims. They're thick as thieves. They're all in cahoots.
In late November, the student government at taxpayer-funded Morgan State University sponsored a conference on slavery reparations for black Americans.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was the keynote speaker....
Farrakhan’s keynote rant lasted over two hours. At one point, he held up what resembled a Quran at the public school, saying that both the central religious text of Islam and the Bible contain a “law of retaliation” and “a life for a life.”
“As long as they kill us and go to Wendy’s and have a burger and go to sleep, they’ll keep killing us,” the Nation of Islam leader fumed. “But when we die and they die, then soon we’re going to sit at a table and talk about it! We’re tired! We want some of this earth or we’ll tear this goddamn country up!”
Farrakhan’s Nov. 22 remarks occurred 28 days before Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley brutally murdered two New York City police officers....
The Times story seems to be essentially the truth, but the Caller story is more powerful. It's more emotionally satisfying to find someone to blame. (The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association finds it satisfying to blame Mayor de Blasio.) This is always a problem for democracy: the people enraged by a satisfying narrative tend to have more political power, because they're fired up. And so these cop shootings can't be about a now-deceased American drifter glomming onto political outrage in the last weeks of a misspent life. Someone has to be at fault -- someone whose still there to blame, and whose alleged guilt conveniently indicts others.