KINGMAN - The execution-style killings of two New York City police officers Saturday put every cop in the country on high alert over fears the gunman's actions might spread elsewhere - and that they could be the target.
"It was absolutely a terrible thing," said Sheriff Jim McCabe in an interview Monday. "I don't remember a time in history that we've ever had people go out with the sole purpose of killing cops.
"The mob wouldn't kill cops because they knew it would bring too much heat, but it looks like things have changed."
When asked if he thought the killer, 28-year-old Brooklyn resident Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was mentally ill, as his mother has suggested, McCabe said, "I hope so. I'm sure they'll do a deep investigation into his background, but I can tell you that's what we usually see."
McCabe and Kingman Police Chief Bob DeVries both spoke to their respective officers Monday, not to warn them of a possible attack - there is no evidence to suggest others plan on ambushing law enforcement officers here or anywhere else in the country - but to tell them to continue to rely on their training and professionalism.
While law enforcement officers and the overwhelming majority of Americans are shocked and outraged by Brinsley's actions, McCabe and DeVries understand why many people are equally shocked and outraged over the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner of New York City earlier this year.
The men, both black, were killed by police officers who were later cleared of any wrongdoing by grand juries. The deaths set off riots in Missouri and protests in New York City and other metropolitan areas across the nation. Brinsley, who was black, killed officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The officers were sitting in their patrol vehicle when Brinsley approached and fired through the passenger-side window, striking both men with several rounds to their heads and bodies.
He ran underground onto a subway platform and killed himself. Before the killing, Brinsley posted the following on social media: "I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs."
McCabe said officers everywhere will have to control their emotions.
"Every cop in the country will be extra vigilant and every cop in the country is going out there today to do their jobs," said McCabe, but he also said law enforcement and the communities they serve in Mohave County enjoy a relationship of mutual respect. "Right now, I'm really happy to be a cop in Mohave County," said McCabe. "We're not seeing what goes on elsewhere."
DeVries expressed sadness over the weekend double killing, but he also said experience has taught him the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's can be the most dangerous of the year for officers.
"Things can get violent in a hurry for a police officer this time of year," he said. "It's not always a happy time for a lot of people."
As for the NYPD killings, DeVries said his officers will keep their personal feelings to themselves.
"There are raw emotions on both sides," he said. "I told them to continue to do what you do in a professional manner.
"They do a great job and I'm proud of them."
DeVries and McCabe pointed out there are very few incidents of use of force compared to the number of incidents they respond to and the arrests they make.
DeVries attributes it to CPR, and he's not talking about cardiopulmonary resuscitation. "We call it courtesy, professionalism and respect," he said.
"I remember there were several times I could have used lethal force and it would have been justified," said McCabe, "but I did not use lethal force and the great majority of cops operate the same way. Cops use a great deal of restraint. We have different tools available to utilize less than lethal force and those tools will continue to evolve. Believe me, nobody wakes up hoping he's going to get into a gunfight."
Both men said the blame with Saturday's double killing rests solely with the shooter and not New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been criticized by NYPD union leaders for comments he made after a grand jury declined to indict the officer involved in Garner's killing.
"I don't think he or anyone besides the killer should be blamed," said McCabe. "We look at the root cause. There's only one person who decided he was going to go out and kill two cops that day. Nobody else. Just him."
DeVries was equally circumspect. "I'm not going to get into the political blame game," he said. "There are so many people who are emotionally charged on both sides and I think the problems we're seeing are more deeply rooted than anybody understands right now. We need to start working on fixing it."