In Multipolarity

Five Dallas police officers shot dead at anti-violence protest

By Jamie Grierson, Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian, July 8, 2016

Protest in Dallas against racist police killings of Black people in U.S. is scene of deadly attack

Police under attack by snipers in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016 (Dallas Morning News)

Police under attack by snipers in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016 (Dallas Morning News)

Dallas has been plunged into chaos after five police officers were shot dead and at least seven others were wounded when dozens of shots were fired during an anti-violence protest.

It was the deadliest day for law enforcement in the U.S. since 9/11.

One suspect died after a protracted standoff in a parking garage in which heavy gunfire was exchanged between the man and police officers. A further three suspects are in police custody.

As the Texan city reeled from the attack, much of which was caught on smartphone footage, officers searched the streets for explosives after the suspect said before he died that bombs had been hidden “all over the place”. A senior officer later confirmed no devices were found.

Two of the dead officers have been named as Brent Thompson, 43, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (Dart) officer, and Patrick Zamarripa. Some of the seven injured officers were in a serious condition. Two civilians were wounded, including Shetamia Taylor, who was shot in the leg while attending the protest with her sons, but her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

The anti-violence rally was one of a number being held across the U.S. after the fatal police shootings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and Philando Castile in Minneapolis on Wednesday. [See Outrage in U.S. after two Black men shot dead by police within two days, July 7, 2016.]

President Barack Obama called the assault a “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement” and said the shooters would be held accountable for the “senseless murders”.

Police estimated that about 800 protesters and 100 officers were at the rally. Early in the evening, officers were posing for photographs with demonstrators. But police and witnesses said shots were fired at 8.58pm and the protest descended into chaos. The Dallas police chief, David Brown, said two snipers shot at officers “from elevated positions”.

Video footage caught by local broadcast media and protesters showed the crowd running and screaming once the rapid gunfire broke out. One clip showed an injured officer lying in the street, while another captured one of the shooters opening fire from behind a large pillar.

“Everyone just started running,” Devante Odom, 21, told the Dallas Morning News. “We lost touch with two of our friends just trying to get out of there.”

Brown said officers exchanged fire with the trapped gunman into the early hours of Friday, and that the suspect had told officers “the end is coming” and “he’s going to hurt and kill more of us – meaning law enforcement”.

He told a press conference the snipers appeared to have positioned themselves on perches at downtown garages during an orchestrated attack and “planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could”.

The police chief said the FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) had been asked to assist in investigating the bomb threat. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) later issued a temporary flight restriction over downtown Dallas.

Brown said two male suspects were caught after officers followed their vehicle and recovered two camouflage bags. A female suspect was arrested close to the garage where the standoff was taking place.

The department was investigating whether any of the suspects had prior knowledge of the protest’s planning. “We’re leaving every motive on the table,” Brown said.

The suspect who died was cornered at a parking garage near El Centro college. It is not clear whether he was shot by officers or himself.

Speaking from Warsaw, Poland, Obama said: “I believe I speak for every single American when I say we are horrified over these events and we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas,” he said. “According to police there are multiple suspects, we will learn more about their twisted motivations but let’s be clear: there is no possible justification for these kind of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.

“Our police have an extraordinarily difficult job and the vast majority of them do their job in outstanding fashion,” he said. “Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us. We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic.”

Speaking alongside the police chief at the press conference, the Dallas mayor, Mike Rawlings, described the shootings as “our worst nightmare”. He added: “It is a heartbreaking moment for the city of Dallas.”

The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, said in a statement that his “thoughts and prayers” were with the families of those officers who had been shot. “In times like these we must remember and emphasize – the importance of uniting as Americans.”

Seventy-two law enforcement officers died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001.

The overnight deaths were the first fatal shootings of U.S. police at demonstrations since unrest spread following the police shooting of the unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.

Two officers were wounded by gunfire while guarding the Ferguson police headquarters during a protest in March last year. A 20-year-old man was charged with crimes including first-degree assault and has pleaded not guilty.

In December 2014, two New York police officers were killed in an ambush-style attack by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then killed himself. Before the shooting, Brinsley, who had mental health problems, had mentioned on social media high-profile cases of black men being killed by police.

Video: Dallas shooting witnesses tell of moment gunfire erupted

Related news on The Guardian:
Minnesota governor says racial bias is at root of Philando Castile killing


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