King County Sheriff John Urquhart sent out an email Sunday morning, directing all of his deputies to wear mourning bands across their badges to show support for the two New York police officers who were ambushed and fatally shot in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday.
Sheriff’s deputies don’t typically wear the mourning bands for line-of-duty deaths outside the larger Seattle region, “but this was so egregious,” said Urquhart, saying New York Police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos “were flat-out assassinated.”
“There’s been an awful lot of criticism of police in the last few weeks and very little show of support,” he said, referencing the nationwide protests that followed two grand-jury decisions earlier this year not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City. “I think it’s important we recognize these two officers.”
“Maybe we all need to stop and take a breath. You can support the police without being a racist,” Urquhart said. He instructed deputies to wear the mourning bands across their badges “until midnight on the day of the last funeral” in New York.
The deaths of the NYPD officers have “certainly put everybody on edge,” and are reminiscent of the Halloween 2009 ambush shooting that killed Seattle Police Officer Tim Brenton as he and another officer sat in a patrol car in the Leschi neighborhood. But there is a difference between the two shootings: “I don’t believe there was the same anti-police sentiment at that time,” Urquhart said.
While officers in New York are now patrolling in two-person cars, Urquhart said he can’t do that because of staffing restraints.
“I reminded all my officers to be extra vigilant, extra careful. That’s all I can do,” said the sheriff, adding he’s already received numerous emails from his deputies, thanking him for the show of solidarity.