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Instagram account depicts troubled shooter

Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who police say shot two New York police officers before turning the gun on himself, is also accused of shooting his girlfriend in Owings Mills.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who police say shot two New York police officers before turning the gun on himself, is also accused of shooting his girlfriend in Owings Mills. (Courtesy Baltimore County police)

As Ismaaiyl Brinsley made his way to New York from Baltimore County to kill two police officers, detectives discovered he was foreshadowing the violent attack on an Instagram account.

"I'm Putting Wings On Pigs Today," read the message that has now been widely discussed since two New York police officers were gunned down Saturday. "They Take 1 Of Ours…..Let's Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMikeBrown This May Be My Final Post … I'm Putting Pigs In A Blanket"

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The Instagram message included a photo of a pistol like the one used in the shooting and was posted on the social media site minutes before Brinsley fired on New York officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. Brinsley committed suicide as police closed in.

The ominous message, as well as other Instagram posts, provided snapshots of the 28-year-old Georgia man's thoughts moments before his deadly onslaught, as well as what Brinsley was like in the weeks and months before.

Photos on the account portray a man who enjoyed food, self-portraits, rap, majestic views, comedic Internet memes and many other typical things Instagram account holders post for friends to gawk at. But they also include political statements, angry rants toward women and disturbing declarations.

A complex picture of Brinsley emerges from the Instagram account "dontrunup," which Baltimore County police say they monitored in the hours immediately after he shot former girlfriend Shaneka Thompson on Saturday in Owings Mills before heading to Brooklyn.

Thompson's condition was upgraded Tuesday from critical to serious, Maryland Shock Trauma Center officials said. Police expect her to survive.

New Yorkers continue to mourn the two slain officers. Services for Ramos, 40, will be Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden will attend, the White House said. The funeral for Liu, 32, has not been set.

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said the Police Department has increased security measures, directing officers to work in teams and suspending auxiliary patrols, while investigators learn more about Brinsley.

The handgun Brinsley used was sold in 1996 at an Atlanta pawnshop, according to federal officials in Georgia. It is unclear how it got into Brinsley's hands.

The Taurus 9 mm was purchased in 1996 by a man who worked at a restaurant and car dealership, said Special Agent in Charge Aladino Ortiz of the Atlanta office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That man sold the weapon to a co-worker at the auto dealership in 1998 — when Brinsley was about 12 years old.

"At this point, the individual doesn't remember who he sold the gun to," Ortiz said. "We are continuing to follow the leads, but the trail is a little cold at this point. ... We may never know how Mr. Brinsley got it into his hands."

The Instagram account where police believe Brinsley posted a picture of that gun Saturday was shut down minutes after Ramos and Liu were ambushed, but The Baltimore Sun captured screen grabs of several photos before it was taken offline. Baltimore County police say they used the account to track Brinsley's movements before the shooting and believe he was posting on it, though they could not confirm definitively that it belonged to him.

The account featured numerous "selfies" and portraits of Brinsley, as well as a profile photo of him.

Detectives used two of the photos to create a "wanted" flier they faxed to New York police before the ambush, said Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

After posting the Instagram message threatening to gun down police, a subsequent post on the account featured a picture from the waist down of camouflage pants and a laceless left sneaker. The caption included lyrics from a song by the rapper 50 Cent, "Never Had a Hot Gun on Your Waist and Blood on Your Shoe…… You Ain't Been Through What I Been Through You Not Like Me and I'm Not Like You."

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Minutes earlier, the Instagrammer had posted a picture a tourist might post of a busker wearing a cowboy hat and blowing a large horn in what appears to be a subway. When juxtaposed with the attack Brinsley committed soon after, the picture prompted puzzling remarks.

"How you record this and then go do some crazy [expletive] like that," wrote an Instagrammer in a comment after the shooting.

Among hundreds of photos of music videos, dinners, lit cigarillos and tequila shots are also screen shots from "WAZE," a social media app that allows users to post locations where they spot police. "#WAZEApp Is The [expletive]!," dontrunup wrote. "If You See The Pigs…. #WarnABrother"

Elsewhere, the Instagram account featured slogans including "Stop The Violence."

The account also included lengthy self-written confessionals about love and hurt feelings. "To Be Honest, I Know Myself And I know Deep Down Inside Of This Scorpio, Lies A Man That Wants To Love And Be Loved," part of a message said.

Another post depicts a story line, written like a screenplay, of a boy who was psychologically and physically abused.

A message entitled "#TilMeetMyMakerTheMovie" appeared four months ago, in which the boy, named "Tek," follows his brother in "street activities" and gets charged with a murder he didn't commit. "Tek's Brother and Everyone Else Deserts Him," it says. "When Tek Conviction Is Overturned And He Is Released From Prison He Goes On A Rampage And No One Escapes His Wrath."

Brinsley suffered from mental illness, according to Georgia court records. His mother, who lives in Brooklyn, told New York police "he had a very troubled childhood and was often violent," said Robert Boyce, the chief of detectives of the New York Police Department. Police said Brinsley tried to hang himself a year ago.

The final post on the account was a puzzle, coming several minutes after Brinsley was reported dead. It's a sympathetic message toward Brinsley, written from another person's point of view.

New York police repeatedly declined to comment about specific Instagram posts or accounts, and it was unclear who might have written it. It features a picture from a movie with the rapper Tupac Shakur holding a gun.

He "went out like himself," the caption said. "I send my condolence too you homie."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton and Tribune Newspapers contributed to this article.

twitter.com/justingeorge

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