Dallas transit officer Brent Thompson, who was among five policemen fatally shot during a peaceful protest in the city’s downtown Thursday night, was the first Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer to be killed in the line of duty since the agency established a police force in 1989.
Thompson, 43, had married a fellow DART officer within the last two weeks, DART Chief James Spiller told Good Morning America.
Thompson served in the Marine Corps from 1991 through 1994 and left the service as a private first class, according to his military service record. He was based out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.
He joined the DART police department in 2009, authorities said. Spiller told the Dallas Morning News that Thompson was a patrol officer who was assigned to the downtown area because he had a good personality.
“We deal with all kinds of people down here, so we try to have someone with the personality to deal with all kinds of individuals, someone with a personal touch and not a heavy-handed approach,” Spiller said. “And Brent was really good at that.”
Thompson worked as a contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he worked with American officers training Iraqi police, according to his LinkedIn account.
President Obama will cut short his trip to Europe and visit Dallas next week at the invitation of the mayor, the White House said Friday. Obama canceled a sightseeing jaunt to Seville, Spain, that was tacked on to his trip to Poland for the NATO summit. Obama will instead fly from Warsaw to Madrid on Saturday night and meet with Spanish officials, then return to Washington on Sunday night, a day earlier than planned.
Obama will visit Dallas early next week, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. He gave no further details.
A federal official told The Times that shooter Micah Xavier Johnson was armed during the ambush with at least one handgun and one semi-automatic assault rifle, and had a pile of ammunition.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Friday that he believed the gunman who attacked police Thursday night was a lone shooter.
Rawlings said Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, was “the lone gunman in this incident.”
“This was a mobile shooter that had written manifestos on how to shoot and move,” Rawlings said. “He did that. He did his damage. But we did our damage to him, too.”
Police questioned two other men and a woman after the shooting, but they have been released, Rawlings said.
When the shooting started, he said police spotted 20 people in “camo gear,” but they were not shooters.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s former attorney general, said that while there was only one gunman, he would not rule out potential accomplices.
“I want to make sure we button down every corner before we rule out any potential co-conspirators,” Abbott said. “We do not know who might have known what the gunman was going to do.”
Abbott met with Dallas Police Chief David Brown before joining Rawlings for the Friday briefing. But Abbott emphasized that he had no information to indicate that the gunman had any potential co-conspirators.
This was a man we gave plenty of options to, to give himself up peacefully, and we spent a lot of time talking. He had a choice to come out and we would not harm him, or stay in and we would. He picked the latter.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
Remember this: We know what the mayor said about the gunman. What we don’t know is who, if anybody, may have known what the gunman knew, what he was going to do, may have assisted him in any of his efforts.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that “there appears to have been one gunman” in the Dallas shootings.
The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, had “no known links to or inspiration from any international terrorist organization,” Johnson told reporters.
The shooter acted with “a depraved misbelief that the murder of police officers solves a problem,” he said.
Just as the gunman does not represent those who protest for change, police officers who use excessive force do not represent all of law enforcement, the secretary added.
“Violence is never the answer. Violence directed at our police officers is never the answer. Violence directed at police officers endangers them, and it endangers the very public they are sworn to protect,” he said.
Dallas gunman Micah Xavier Johnson “bantered” with police negotiators, a federal official said. Johnson did not appear nervous, indicated he was not afraid to die in a hail of gunfire and told officers he had been preparing for the assault.
As Americans coped with one tragic moment after another this week, with the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile followed by the shooting of a dozen police officers in Dallas, the country’s parents had an added task: explaining each act of violence to their children.
“If [children] see a bunch of this on television, they can become the indirect victims of trauma,” said Suzanne Silverstein, director of the Cedars-Sinai Psychological Trauma Center.
African American children might be afraid for their own lives or for their friends and families when they see black men being shot. Children of law enforcement officers might be even more afraid for their parents after learning what happened in Dallas.
White House aides did not rule out the possibility Friday that the Dallas shooting may cut short President Obama’s trip to Europe, where he was receiving regular updates on the investigation as he shuttled between NATO summit meetings in Warsaw.
Obama feels “not just a need but a desire to communicate with the American public about his perspective on these issues,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said of the racially tinged violence that has roiled the nation over the past three days.
Americans’ heightened concerns about safety are understandable after the Dallas massacre and two shooting deaths of black men by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, particularly given how the advent of social media and readily available recording technology relay those episodes more directly and immediately, Earnest said.
But he said Obama saw reason for optimism in the positive response of some political leaders as well as demonstrations of support around the country.
The president hopes “the response this time might be a little bit different than what it usually is,” Earnest said.
Obama is due to travel to Spain for a two-day visit after the conclusion of the NATO summit here in Warsaw on Saturday.
For more than two decades now, law enforcement agencies have pushed officers to build bonds with the communities they patrol, shedding the “warrior cop” image in favor of cooperation and collaboration.
Many police leaders believe “community policing” has improved law enforcement relations with minority communities — at least to some degree.
But the Dallas shooting complicates matters, officials said.
“This tragedy makes police officers more apprehensive than ever at a time when we are encouraging more engagement with the community,” said Ed Medrano, Gardena’s police chief. “It is harder for them put themselves in the community because they are concerned for their safety. So are their families.”
—Richard Winton and Cindy Chang
In his Facebook profile photo, Dallas shooter Micah Xavier Johnson wore a purple, yellow and gold dashiki and thrust his fist into the air. His cover photo displayed the red, black and green stripes of the Pan-African flag.
He had joined several groups that made allusions to the Black Panther Party, including a group called the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, named for the black power group’s co-founder.
The group, which was founded last year to oppose police brutality, teaches its members self-defense and conducts what it calls “armed patrols” through neighborhoods where the police have killed black men.
“We’d never seen him and we don’t know him,” said member Erick Khafre by phone. “The gun club isn’t affiliated with him in any way.”
Last week, Johnson shared a video of pilot whales being killed in the shallow waters off the Faroe Islands.
“Look at the joy on their faces,” Johnson wrote . “Why do so many whites (not all) enjoy killing and participating in the death of innocent beings?”
He continued: “The church members and regular citizens (offspring of terrorist invaders) who stood around watching, cheering, eating food with their families while watching one of our ancestors be beaten, noose tied around their neck, hung up high for all to see… then they all stand around and smile while their picture is taken with a hung, burned and brutalized black person.”
The father of a Dallas police officer who served in the Navy before joining the police force has identified his son, Patrick Zamarripa, as one of the five officers killed by a gunman Thursday night.
“My son was shot and killed by a sniper along with four other police officers,” Rick Zamarripa wrote on Facebook early Friday, saying he was at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital waiting to see his son be “moved to the medical examiner’s office.”
“Need prayers to get through this,” he wrote.
Patrick Zamarripa, 32, was an Iraq war veteran based with the Navy’s 5th Fleet in Manama, Bahrain, according to military service records. He enlisted in the military less than a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Rick Zamarripa told the Washington Post that his son had joined the Dallas Police Department about five years ago, after getting out of the military.
Patrick Zamarripa’s Twitter biography said he was “addicted to the thrill of this job.” He regularly posted selfies of himself in uniform, grinning, and of his 2-year-old daughter, Lyncoln Rae.
“My new reason for...life. #daddysgirl #princess” Zamarripa wrote on Twitter in December 2013 with a photo of his baby girl, who was frequently seen in later posts wearing Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers clothing and hair bows.
Rick Zamarripa sent a text message to his son Thursday night after seeing television reports that shots had been fired in downtown Dallas during a peaceful protest, according to the Washington Post.
“Hey Patrick,” the elder Zamarripa texted. “Are you okay?”
He got no response.
Lyncoln, the little girl he adored, cried out for him Thursday night, Rick Zamarripa told the Post.
Patrick Zamarripa’s cousin, Gilbert M. Martinez, posted photos of Zamarippa in his military and police uniforms on Facebook on Friday morning.
“No words can express the ignorance of today’s society,” Martinez wrote. “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, and the kids he leaves behind. ... #bluelievesmatter."
The sister of Micah Xavier Johnson, a gunman in the Dallas shootings, spent Friday mourning the loss of her brother and questioning why he had gone to the downtown demonstration.
“I keep saying it’s not true. … My eyes hurt from crying,” Nicole Johnson wrote in a post on Facebook that she later deleted.
Minutes later, she posted again.
“The news will say what they think, but those that knew him know this wasn’t like him,” she wrote. “This is the biggest loss we’ve had.”
The ACLU of Texas called on mayors throughout the state to bring heads of law enforcement agencies, leaders of community organizations and local activists together in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting.
Texans must work together to ensure the violence is met with reason and action, the organization said in a statement.
“If the night had gone as the protesters and police planned, this would have been a demonstration of what makes our country great: a citizenry publicly proclaiming their objection to government wrongs, and public officials protecting the citizenry’s constitutional right to air their anger and disapproval,” the ACLU said.
The group added: “Tragically, this quintessential example of democracy was ripped apart.”
Reflecting on the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Philando Castile in Minnesota and the five Dallas police officers, the ACLU asked: “How much is enough?”
Micah X. Johnson, the gunman in the Dallas police shooting, was a former Army Reserve soldier who once served in Afghanistan, according to military records.
Johnson joined the Army Reserve in March 2009 and served in a troop program unit in Seagoville, Texas, for 4 1/2 years. Members of the Army Reserve program typically spend one weekend per month on duty and perform two weeks of additional training each year.
He deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and served eight months as a carpentry and masonry specialist with the 420th Engineer Brigade.
Johnson received several medals for his tour of duty in Afghanistan, including an Army Achievement Medal and a NATO Medal.
Rev. Jeff Hood, a Baptist minister based in Dallas, helped organize the protest that preceded the shooting as a way for people to gather and vent.
The organizers announced the event on Facebook, as they had nearly a dozen past gatherings, and drew close to a thousand people.
“It was a peaceful protest, no question about it. The entire thing was peaceful,” said Hood, 32, who wears his beard long, pairs a suit and tie with sandals and winds a string of prayer beads around his wrist.
Hood worked with organizers from the Next Generation Action Network and police to plan the rally route, expecting a large crowd.
“We were interested in creating a space where anger could be let out. We were interested in creating a space where people could grieve,” he said, to network and “face head on the problem of police brutality.”
“That rally did those things,” he said.
When the group started marching, Hood and his wife fell in step with a police sergeant.
“We were talking about how great this has been, how nonviolent,” Hood recalled.
They were marching in front of several hundred people when Hood heard rapid-fire gunshots.
“Immediately I looked up and saw two police officers that had gone down,” he said. “I saw it. I mean, I saw people drop. I knew.”
He initially lost his wife in the chaos, and feared for her safety. He had a small cross and held it up above the crowd, he said, guiding them like a shepherd’s crook.
Many of them kept asking him why the shooting happened. He wondered the same thing.
“At the end of the night I found myself alone, in tears, simply asking how does something so beautiful -- hundreds of people nonviolently expressing their grievances -- turn into something so evil so quickly?” he said.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris called the violence in Dallas a “grave reminder” of what law enforcement officers face every day.
“Last night’s unspeakable violence reminds me of these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,’ ” Harris said in a statement.
Violence only increases distrust and anger, she added.
“The relationship of trust between law enforcement and the communities we are sworn to serve is reciprocal,” she said. "We honor the courage and sacrifice of law enforcement as we continue the important national dialogue around reforming our criminal justice system.”