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Five officers are dead — four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer — after two snipers ambushed and opened fire on police at the end of a peaceful protest against nationwide officer-involved shootings Thursday night, officials say.
Seven officers and two civilians also were injured in the shootings.
“This is a terrible blow to the city of Dallas. This is a terrible blow to the United States of America,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said on the NBC’s “Today” show.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said officers cornered the suspect and tried to negotiate with him for several hours before talks broke down. After an exchange of gunfire, officers attached explosives to a bomb robot and detonated them near the suspect.
Rawlings said police have swept the area where the standoff took place and found no explosives.
Police said earlier three other suspects were in custody in connection with the shooting, though Brown said they were still investigating.
“I’m not going to be satisfied until we turn over every stone,” he said. “If there’s someone out there associated with this, we will find you.”
Brown said the suspect told negotiator’s he was upset about recent shootings involving police officers.
“The suspect said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” Brown said.
President Barack Obama, who was in Warsaw, Poland, for a NATO meeting, condemned the “vicious, callous and despicable attack.”
“I believe I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events and that we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas,” the president said.
One of the injured civilians was identified by family as Shetamia Taylor, who was shot while shielding her children from the gunfire, her sister told NBC 5. Taylor’s condition is not known.
A male victim was also injured in the shootings, according to City of Dallas spokeswoman Sana Syed. His identity and condition have not yet been released.
A bomb squad investigated at least one suspicious package in the night as part of the massive police response. Dallas Police Department’s Maj. Max Geron said Friday morning that primary and secondary sweeps found no explosives.
The deceased DART officer was identified as 43-year-old Officer Brent Thompson. He is the first DART officer killed in the line of duty since the transit service formed a police department in 1989. He joined DART in 2009, according to a department statement.
Identities of the deceased Dallas police officers have not been released.
Twelve officers in all — eight Dallas police and four DART —were shot by gunmen in what police believe to be a coordinated ambush attack that began at 8:58 p.m., at the close of a rally in solidarity with two men killed in officer-involved shootings, one in Louisiana, one in Minnesota.
“We’re hurting. Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken,” Brown said. “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.”
Video from the scene showed officers taking cover and people in the rally scattering after gunshots were heard.
“We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves to triangulate on our officers … and planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at a news conference Thursday evening.
One person was taken into custody at about 11:30 p.m., Dallas police said, following an exchange of gunfire with Dallas SWAT officers. A suspicious package was located near that person, and the package was being investigated by bomb squad personnel.
Two other people were taken into custody in connection with a vehicle, Brown said.
|Map Credit: The Dallas Morning News|
Rawlings called the shooting Dallas’ “worst nightmare,” Thursday night, and asked that all residents “come together and support our police officers.”
Brown asked for prayers and support from the community in the wake of the shootings.
“We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days,” he said. “We need your support to be able to protect your from men like these.”
Gov. Greg Abbott offered the state’s assistance to Dallas overnight.
It is the deadliest day for United States law enforcement agents since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks killed 72, NBC News reported.
The ATF and FBI have joined the investigation, authorities said.
Dallas police released a photo of a man whom they considered a “person of interest” in the shootings. The man, whose identity has not been released, surrendered to police for questioning and was later released.
Scores of police officers arrived downtown following the shooting, which took place along Main Street between and Market and Lamar streets, a block from the Old Red Courthouse building.
“I saw all the cops were bending over. There had to have been five or six cops, and they were all getting shot down. It was right after the rally, we were walking to the car,” said Cortney Washington, of Dallas.
“They kept shooting. It was coming — we didn’t know where it was coming from. And I didn’t see anybody else get shot. It was just the cops. I didn’t see nobody else get shot,” Washington said.
The protest was organized by Dominique R. Alexander, an ordained minister and the head of the Next Generation Action Network, according to The New York Times.
He told the Times the organization “does not condone violence against any human being, and we condemn anyone who wants to commit violence.” Brown said it was too early to say whether there was a connection between the attackers and the demonstration.
“I was right there when the shooting happened,” Alexander added. “They could have shot me.”
Another rally organizer Cory Hughes told NBC 5 the protest was peaceful and as the crowd was dispersing, they heard gunfire.
“They were shots ringing out from what felt like every direction,” Hughes said.
He said the scene turned into “mayhem; we didn’t know where to go.”
He said he knew it was a serious situation when he saw officers coming from all directions, carrying rifles and tactical gear.
DART public transportation service is suspended in downtown due to police activity.
Dallas County buildings, including the George L. Allen Sr. Courts building, are closed Friday, among several closures due to the ongoing police investigation.
El Centro College is closed Friday, and classes are canceled due to the police investigation.
A witness who posted video to Facebook said he saw at least three officers wounded near El Centro College. (Video is embedded below.)
The shooting comes just over a year after a man opened fire on Dallas Police Headquarters on South Lamar Street. No officers were injured in the ensuing shootout.