By David Sedeno
The Texas Catholic
DALLAS — Five Dallas law enforcement officers were assassinated July 7 as one sniper opened fire in downtown Dallas as hundreds of demonstrators were winding down a march protesting recent fatal officer-involved shootings in other parts of the country.
The five officers — four from the Dallas Police Department and one from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit — were shot around 9 p.m. local time by a sniper who targeted law enforcement officials from a parking garage. The five dead were among 12 officers and two civilians wounded.
While the names of the slain Dallas police officers have not been officially released by Dallas Police Department, family members and other sources have identified them as Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48, Officer Michael Krol, 40; Officer Patrick Zamarippa, and Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 55.
Sgt. Smith, his wife Heidi and their two daughters, Victoria and Caroline, are part of the Mary Immaculate Catholic Church community in Farmers Branch, just north of Dallas. Heidi is a fourth-grade teacher at Mary Immaculate Catholic School.
Father Michael Forge, the pastor at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, sent a letter to all parishioners via email on July 8, informing them of the death of Sgt. Smith, a former U.S. Army Ranger who joined the Dallas police force in 1989.
“I’m asking all of us to pull together in prayer and support for the Smith family, as well as the other officers’ families who were killed along with Mike,” he said. “Together with the church and school administration and staff, please pray for them, allow them some privacy, and support them and all of our MIS families who are grieving this tragic situation.”
The suspected sniper — who had held dozens of SWAT officers at bay for several hours by saying that there were bombs planted around the area, that “the end was coming” and that he would take down more officers — was killed overnight when police sent a robot toward him and detonated an explosive device attached to the robot.
Officials had not identified the shooter on July 8, but numerous media outlets had identified him as Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, of the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, who served a tour in Afghanistan and had been discharged from the military in 2015.
Police also had declined to identify three others arrested shortly after the shootings, but vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
The attack was the worst loss in the city of Dallas’ history and for U.S. law enforcement since 9/11.
“We are hurting,” said Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who has said that police don’t feel much support most days. “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.”
Dallas police had not officially identified the He did not identify the Dallas police officers killed or wounded, although he did say that some of the injured officers had been released from the hospital and some would need follow-up care. DART officials identified their officer as Brent Thompson, 43, who had been on the force since 2009, and said that he had gotten married only two weeks ago.
Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, who has blogged in the past several months about the escalating gun violence across the country and world, reiterated his call for prayer and peace after the Dallas attack.
“Our first concern is for the families who have lost loved ones in this tragic attack,” he said. “We pray for consolation and healing for both the families and those killed and wounded. We are reminded of the ever-present danger to those who are dedicated to protecting us.
“We have been swept up in the escalating cycle of violence that has now touched us intimately as it has others throughout our country and the world,” he said. “All lives matter: black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu. We are all children of God, and all human life is precious.
“We cannot lose respect for each other and we call upon all of our civic leaders to speak to one another and work together to come to a sensible resolution to this escalating violence,” he said. “Let us implore God our heavenly father to touch the minds and hearts of all people to work together for peace and understanding.”
The bishop joined other faith and civic leaders at an ecumenical gathering at Thanksgiving Square, a prayer and water garden area a few blocks from the shooting site, to offer a prayer for healing.
“Prompted by the goodness that is in each of us, we pray as the old St. Francis’ prayer teaches us that each person in our community will become an instrument of peace,” he said. “May almighty God hear the prayer of this community on this day and may he stretch out his hands to touch the men and women who give their lives for each one of us.
“It reminds us of the words of scripture, there is no greater love than one who gives his life for the protection of others. Our police officers deserve our support and our prayers. May God stretch out to them in their pain and their suffering on this day. “
Dallas police were out in force at the rally and heard the call from the police chief that officers need to feel the community’s support every day.
“When you see the outpouring support of the community, it helps in some small way to ease some of that pain that you’re going through,” Dallas police officer Warren Mitchell said. “The community has our back in our time of need and events like this really help out when you are going through some difficult times.”
Dallas resident Van Stripling said that people have to be more accepting of each other.
“I hope it has opened the eyes of people, because the reality is we are all created under the hand of God,” Stripling said. “When I look across the street I don’t see color, I see my brother, I see my sister, so what I saw last night brought pain and hurt to my heart.”
Bishop Farrell was scheduled to celebrate a Mass for peace and healing at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on July 9.
The march through downtown Dallas on July 7 was organized to show support for families of two men killed earlier in the week in officer-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
In Baton Rouge, Alton Sterling, 37, was killed July 5 by police during an altercation outside a convenience store after witnesses said that he had a gun. In Minneapolis, Philando Castile was fatally shot after a traffic stop on July 6.
More than 1,000 people walked through the western part of the downtown Dallas area for a march and rally and as the event was winding down, gunfire erupted shortly before 9 p.m.
Social media posts and live televised images showed the sniper opening fire on police, who returned fire, and of police running toward the sounds of gunfire and of people running from the gunfire. Police kept pushing people away from the area after the suspect was cornered in the second-floor garage of El Centro, a community college housed in a multistory downtown building.
As information rolled in throughout the evening, the number of officers wounded and dead climbed and Chief Brown alluded during an overnight news conference that negotiations with the holed-up suspect were not going well and that officers would do everything necessary to keep Dallas citizens safe.
“He was upset about ‘Black Lives Matter,'” Brown said. “He was upset about the recent police shootings. He was upset at white people. Stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.
“He said that we will eventually find the IEDs,” the chief said. “The suspect stated that he was not affiliated with any groups and that he did this alone.”
Brown said that the investigation and search for any others suspects would continue. A six-block by three-block section in the western end of downtown Dallas, coincidentally near Dealey Plaza where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, was closed July 7 as police continued their investigation.
The attack on the police was second in as many years. In June 2015, James Boulware shot up police headquarters from an armored van, then led police on a high-speed chase before being killed by police after a stand-off.
Mayor Mike Rawlings, who appeared with the police chief during the various news conferences and the ecumenical service, said that police need support now more than ever. And he said that his generation of leaders have allowed polarization to persist and that it will be up to them to curtail it and to stop racism.
The police chief said that he was proud of the officers who continually give of themselves to protect people every day.
“We believe in the right to protest peacefully and these were peaceful protests until this happened,” Chief Brown said. “We also believe in keeping our officers safe.
“We are not going to let a coward who would ambush police officers change our democracy, our city. Our country is better than that.”
Also contributing to this story were Managing Editor Michael Gresham, intern Anahi Perez Faz.