Snipers Kill 5 Dallas Officers at Protest Against Police Shootings

May 11, 2017

By Patrick McGee, Manny Fernandez and Jonah Engel Bromwich
The New York Times
Thursday, July 7, 2016

DALLAS — Five Dallas police officers were killed and six others were wounded by snipers on Thursday night during a demonstration protesting shootings by officers in Minnesota and Louisiana this week, the Dallas police said.

The police believe four suspects coordinated the attack with rifles, Police Chief David O. Brown said, and positioned themselves in triangulated locations near the end of the route the protesters planned to take. The police had three people in custody and were negotiating in the early-morning hours with a fourth, who was in a garage in downtown Dallas at El Centro, a community college.

That suspect had exchanged gunfire with the police and was being uncooperative in talks, Chief Brown said at a news conference in the lobby of City Hall.

The suspect “has told our negotiators that the end is coming and he’s going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement, and that there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown,” Chief Brown said.

“We are being very careful in our tactics so that we don’t injure or put any of our officers in harm’s way, including the citizens of Dallas, as we negotiate further,” he added.

The three other suspects are a woman who was taken from the garage and two others who were taken in for questioning after a traffic stop.

Chief Brown said the suspects in custody were not providing investigators with many details. “We just are not getting the cooperation we’d like, to know that answer of why, the motivation, who they are,” he said.

The shooting had been carried out by snipers who fired down on a demonstration in the city’s downtown area that until that point had been peaceful, the chief said.

They “planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could,” Chief Brown said.

“Some were shot in the back,” the chief said. “We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers.”

Major Max Geron, of the Dallas Police Department said that the city’s downtown was being swept for explosives, a process that would “take quite a while.”

The police said that four of the dead were Dallas police officers and that one was from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit force. The transit agency identified him as Brent Thompson, 43. He joined in 2009 and was the first DART officer to be killed in the line of duty.

A civilian in the crowd of almost 1,000 people was also wounded.

Graphic video of Dallas shooting suspect aired on TV Video by Matthew Keys

The police were also combing downtown Dallas for what they believed was a bomb planted by the snipers as the heart of the country’s ninth-largest city was put on lockdown.

The chief said he had contacted the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for help in the investigation.

Chief Brown said that he was not confident that the police had apprehended everyone involved in the shooting, and that a rigorous investigation would continue until “we are confident that all suspects have been captured.”

“I can just tell you I’ve never been more proud of being a police officer and being a part of this noble profession,” he said.

In Warsaw, where President Obama arrived early Friday to attend a NATO summit meeting, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said: “The president has been updated on the shooting of police officers in Dallas. He asked his team to keep him updated on the situation as they get additional information.”

Mr. Obama had addressed the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis shortly after he arrived in Warsaw. But he made those comments before the reports of the shootings in Dallas.

The shooting unfolded near one of the busiest parts of the city’s downtown, filled with hotels and restaurants as well as Dallas County government buildings. Videos of the scene circulated widely on social media. In many of them, gunshots could be heard ringing out against a city illuminated by flashing police lights. Teams of armed officers could be seen running through the area.

Although the shooting occurred during a rally to protest police-involved shootings, it was unclear what relationship the gunmen had to the demonstration.

It was unknown what the motives were, “except they fired on the police,” said Clay Jenkins, the Dallas County judge and the county’s chief executive. “All government buildings in that area are on lockdown. That’s the government center where this is happening.”

Chief Brown said it was too early in the investigation to say whether there was any connection between the shooters and the demonstration. He suggested that the suspects had some knowledge of the march route.

“How would you know to post up there?” he said. “So we’re leaving every motive on the table of how this happened and why this happened.” He added, “We have yet to determine whether or not there was some complicity with the planning of this, but we will be pursuing that.”

A witness told CNN that she was standing on Main Street shortly before 9 p.m. when “all of a sudden we started hearing, ‘Pop pop pop pop pop.’”

“I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life,” she said.

The Dallas Police Association confirmed that officers were injured, posting on Twitter: “Pray for Dallas tonight. Officers down.”

More than an hour after the shootings — but before the suspects were in custody — the mood in Dallas remained tense.

In one section of downtown, officers asked an African-American man wearing a bulletproof vest to walk toward them. The man slowly approached with his hands up, and a crowd of onlookers became angry and shouted and cursed at the police. An officer had his gun pointed at a black woman, and many in the crowd quickly began filming the scene with their cellphones. The tension eased as people in the crowd chanted, “Black lives matter.”

The shootings occurred after President Obama, reacting with the same horror as many Americans to a video of a dying man in Minnesota who was shot by the police, begged the nation to confront the racial disparities in law enforcement while acknowledging the dangers that officers faced.

Mayor Mike Rawlings cautioned residents that the downtown area was still a crime scene and told people who worked in the area to check to see which buildings were open.

“It is a heartbreaking morning to lose these four officers that proudly served our citizens,” he said. “To say that our police officers put their life on the line every day is no hyperbole, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a reality.’’

The protest was planned by Dominique R. Alexander, an ordained minister and the head of the Next Generation Action Network.

He said that the organization “does not condone violence against any human being, and we condemn anyone who wants to commit violence.”

“I was right there when the shooting happened,” Mr. Alexander said. “They could have shot me.”