NEW YORK -- Two NYPD officers were shot and killed Saturday by troubled gunman Ismaayil Brinsley, who just several minutes later killed himself in a Brooklyn subway station. One of the officers, Rafael Ramos, was a Christian chaplain-in-training and a "God-loving man," his family said.
Ramos, 40, and his patrol partner, Wenjian Liu, 32, had been sitting in their squad car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood when the 28-year-old gunman attacked them. Liu had been married for nearly three months and Ramos was the father of two boys.
"My cousin had a couple of priorities in his life," Ramos' cousin Ronnie Gonzales told The Wall Street Journal. "One was God, because he was a God-loving man. I wish I could be half the man my cousin was. He was sweet. He didn't deserve to die."
"He's in the hands of God now," Gonzales later told PIX 11 News. "We don't believe in vengeance, we just forgive."
Ramos was training to be a chaplain and faithfully attended his local church, the Christ Tabernacle. He was supposed to graduate Saturday, according to Marcos Miranda, president of the New York State Chaplain Task Force.
"I will remember his kindness the most — even the kindness in his eyes — in our talks, he asked what I thought of him being a police officer, and I said it was an honorable job. He said he thought it was ministry because he was helping those in need. He never thought he could be a chaplain, he saw himself doing this type of ministry after he retired from the NYPD. He was very excited about that possibility," Miranda told multiple sources.
Ramos' 13-year-old son Jaden said his dad 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," the boy wrote on Facebook.
The New York Yankees' Silver Shield Foundation has offered to pay for the college educations of the two boys in light of the tragedy.
Tension between NYPD and communities has only increased with the shootings, with police precincts warning officers not to arrest anyone unless absolutely necessary and take other precautions.
Brinsley posted threats to Instagram before the shooting, saying that he was taking revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other unarmed African-American men gunned down in recent months. Garner's family has condemned the violence along with President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.