One of the two New York City police officers killed during an ambush Saturday afternoon had only recently fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a cop.
Rafael Ramos, 40, worked as a school safety officer until 2012, when became a police officer in the 84th precinct in Brooklyn. His three-year anniversary with the department would have been in January.
Ramos, who was Dominican, had a 13-year-old son and another son in college. He celebrated his milestone birthday just nine days ago.
"We met the wife of Officer Ramos, we met his 13-year-old son who couldn’t comprehend what happened to his father,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday.
Ramos' younger son, Jaden, posted on Facebook late Saturday that it was "the worst day of my life."
"Today I had to say bye to my father. He was [there] for me everyday of my life, 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."
Rosie Orengo, a friend of Ramos, said he was heavily involved in their church and encouraged others in their marriages.
"He was an amazing man. He was the best father and husband and friend," she said. "Our peace is knowing that he's OK, and we'll see him in heaven."
Officer Wenjian Liu, who was also killed, had been with the force for seven years and was a newlywed. He was married only two months ago.
"We feel intense pain," Edward Rodríguez, president of the New York Dominican Officers Association, told El Diario La Prensa. "This happens when our police officers aren't receiving support from our leaders, when words from our leaders divide rather than unite."
Police officers have criticized de Blasio for not defending officers enough during heightened tensions in the city following the police chokehold death of Eric Garner.
The gunman, identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, announced online that he was planning to shoot two "pigs" in retaliation for Garner's death. He then approached the two officers in a patrol car and shot them to death in broad daylight before running to a subway station and killing himself, authorities said.
Brinsley wrote on an Instagram account: "I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs," officials said. He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown.
The officers were on special patrol doing crime reduction work in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
"They were, quite simply, assassinated - targeted for their uniform," said Police Commissioner William Bratton, who looked pale and shaken at a hospital news conference.
Brinsley took off running as officers pursued him down to a nearby subway station, where he shot himself in the head. A silver handgun was recovered at the scene, Bratton said.
"This may be my final post," Brinsley wrote in the Instagram post that included an image of a silver handgun.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Garner's family had no connection to the suspect and denounced the violence.
"Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases," Sharpton said. "We have stressed at every rally and march that anyone engaged in any violence is an enemy to the pursuit of justice for Eric Garner and Michael Brown."
Brown's family condemned the shooting in a statement posted online by their attorney.
"We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities," the family said.
Scores of officers in uniform lined up three rows deep lined the hospital driveway and stretched into the street, their hands raised in a silent salute, as two ambulances bore the slain officers' bodies away. The mayor ordered flags at half-staff.
The last shooting death of an NYPD officer came in December 2011, when 22-year veteran Peter Figoski was shot in the face while responding to a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment. The triggerman, Lamont Pride, was convicted of murder and sentenced in 2013 to 45 years to life in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.