As a week marked by shooting deaths draws to a close, the world is now looking toward Dallas. A peaceful rally to protest police violence was interrupted last night (July 7) when snipers targeted police officers, shooting 12 officers and two civilians. Five of those officers are now dead.
This morning (July 8), Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and police chief David Brown held a press conference to provide an update on the investigation.
Rawlings began by saying that the open criminal investigation means that the city would not be releasing the names of the suspects in custody or the suspect who was killed by a bomb robot when “negotiations brown down” after an hours-long standoff and an exchange of gunfire at El Centro College. But the Los Angeles Times and CBS News are reporting that the dead suspect was named Micah Xavier Johnson, a Black 25 year old who had this to say during hostage negotiations, per Chief Brown:
The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at White people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill White people, especially White officers. The suspect stated that we will eventually find the IEDs. The suspect stated he was not affiliated with any groups. And he stated that he did this alone.
The unidentified federal agent who confirmed his identity to the LA Times says he has no ties to terror groups and no known criminal history. Heavy.com located Johnson’s Facebook page and found photos that support his claim to have served in the United States Army. As of press time, the Dallas Police Department has not officially identified Johnson as the dead suspect.
“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” Brown said of Johnson’s death. “Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger.”
Brown did not confirm how many additional suspects are currently in custody or where they stood in the investigation, but said that officers are still searching the area for additional suspects and the explosive devices Johnson claimed to have planted. The text included in the press conference video posted by the City of Dallas notes that officers were shot by “potentially two suspects.”
Brown spoke a bit about how he feels in the aftermath of the shooting. “We’re hurting,” he said. “Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken. There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city. All i know is that this must stop. This divisiveness between our police and our citizens.”
He went on to make a plea for support for police officers:
Let me just say some closing comments about Dallas police officers and DART police officers—some of the bravest men and women you’d ever want to be associated with. You see video footage after video footage of them running toward gunfire from an elevated position with no chance to protect themselves and to put themselves in harm’s way to make sure citizens can get to a place of security. So please join me in applauding these brave men and women who do this job under great scrutiny, under great vulnerability, who literally risk their lives to protect our democracy. We don’t feel much support most days. let’s not make today most days.
Some of the names of the injured and deceased have been released. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer Brent Thompson died last night. Jezebel reports that civilian Shetamia Taylor is had surgery this morning for her gun shot wound. And Officers Omar Cannon, Misty McBride and Jesus Retana were also shot. Chief Brown said out of respect for the families, they will not release details of the officers’ health.
The mayor also provided details for an interfaith prayer to be held at Thanksgiving Square at noon CT, and talked about the department’s track record: “This police department trained in deescalation far before cities across America did it. We are one of the premiere community policing cities in the country. And this year, we have the fewest police officer-related shootings than any large city in america. So we are working hard to improve and there’s always roomful improvement, but we are best in class, we feel.” When Better Government Association examined police-involved shootings for the top ten cities for 2010 – 2014, it found that Dallas ranked fourth, with 34 fatal shootings during that time period.
Love will always concur hate. Let us all stand together in support. pic.twitter.com/ebPaFKsa1r— City of Dallas (@CityOfDallas) July 8, 2016
He also said that the city believes in peaceful protests like last night’s action prior to the shooting, but that foregoing militarization tactics leaves officers vulnerable. “The chief makes decisions at times that people could be critical of. Deescalated too much. You put too much body armor on,” he said. “If we’re all being critical of those things, just think about today. This is what you’re risking if you don’t do it right.”
Brown expanded on that theme, talking about the balance between being safe and protecting citizen’s rights:
Police officers are guardians of this great democracy, the freedom to protest, the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression. All freedoms we fight for with our lives. It’s what makes us who we are as Americans. And so we risk our lives for those rights. We won’t militarize our policing standards, but we will do it in a much safer way every time, like we chose to do it this time. We had an adequate amount of officers at this scene, and we were blocking traffic and doing all the things to protect people’s right to protest and their free speech. We are not gonna let a coward who would ambush police officers change our democracy. We’re not gonna do it. Our city, our country, is better than that.