Five police officers were killed and at least seven more injured in a coordinated sniper ambush at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, on Thursday night, the latest scene of horrific gun violence to rattle America.
It was the worst assault on US law enforcement in decades, as the New York Timesreports.
At least two civilians were also injured, and one suspect—identified by an LA Times law enforcement source as 25-year-old Dallas resident Micah X. Johnson—was killed by a police robot armed with a bomb after being cornered in a parking garage and exchanging gunfire with the cops. Three other suspects were taken into custody.
Almost as soon as the first shots rang out around 9 PM local time, activists irate over the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, rushed to deny any part in the attack. The incident inevitably calls to mind the execution-style slaying of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn in December 2014 by a disturbed black man angry about police killings.
Those suspects who were taken into custody for disrupting what was widely described as a peaceful protest were not readily offering up a motive, however.
“We just are not getting the cooperation we’d like, to know that answer of why, the motivation, who they are,” said Police Chief David A. Brown, who added that he was not certain everyone involved had been apprehended. A black man named Mark Hughes who was pictured on social media carrying a rifle was briefly detained before being released by police around 1:40 AM, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Brown does seem to believe the assault was at least partly motivated by the two police shootings that have dominated the news this week, though, indicating Johnson “said he was upset at Black Lives Matter, said he was upset about the recent police shootings.
“The suspect said he was upset at white people; the suspect said he wanted to kill white people,” Chief Brown added.
Brown is notable for having presided over a number of reforms in his six years as chief, dramatically reducing the number of excessive force complaints, releasing data on officer-involved shootings, and focusing on de-escalation and community relations. During the protests, officers wore regular uniforms rather than heavy riot gear.
“There has been a vicious, calculated, and despicable attack on law enforcement,” President Barack Obama told the media Friday morning in Warsaw, Poland.
The suspect in the garage reportedly referred to explosives while speaking to the police inside the parking garage, but initial sweeps of the downtown area did not turn up anything dangerous, according to police.
Civilian witnesses, some of whom broadcast the palpable gunfire to social media, took cover, as the snipers’ objective wasn’t clear amid the chaos.
“I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life,” one woman told CNN.