Police said there are at least four suspects after snipers shot at least 11 police officers, killing five, in a downtown area of Dallas where protests had been taking place Thursday night. One civilian was also injured. Police also suspect bombs may be planted in downtown Dallas. The FBI and ATF are on the scene, canvassing for explosives.
It is the worst mass shooting of police officers in American history and the deadliest day for police since 9/11, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. There have been 51 police officer fatalities in 2016, 21 of which have been “firearms related.”
Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016 (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
The shootings occurred during a rally in which a crowd of about 800 protested the recent police shootings of black men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota. The Dallas Morning News reported the shots were fired around 9 p.m. local time near the intersection of Market and Main streets, which is near the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza. The protesters were marching from the Belo Garden Park to the Old Red Courthouse.
So far, no evidence has surfaced of protester involvement in the deadly assault or of any connection between the protest and the killings.
Ernest Walker leads other protestors at a rally in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016. (Smiley N. Pool/Dallas Morning News)
During a news conference at around 12:40 central time Friday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said three of the four suspects were in custody. The fourth had been in a standoff with police on the second floor of the El Centro parking garage since around midnight central time and had fired at police.
Dallas Police respond after shots are fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016. (G.J. McCarthy/Dallas Morning News)
Brown said he believes the four suspects worked together with rifles, “triangulated at elevated positions at difference places in the downtown area” to attack police officers.
“Everyone just started running,” protester Devante Odom told the newspaper. “We lost touch with two of our friends just trying to get out of there.”
Renee Sifflet, a mother of three teenagers who attended the rally and march, said she lost track of one of her children during the ensuing chaos.
“I brought them here for a positive experience, something they could say they were part of when they’re older, ” she said. “Then it turned negative.”
The suspect in the El Centro garage said “there are bombs all over this place, in the garage and downtown,” according to Brown. A suspicious package was found near one of the suspects and is being examined by the Dallas Police bomb squad.
“We are being very careful with our tactics, so we don’t injure or put any of our citizen’s in harm’s way,” Brown said.
A man raises his hands as he walks near a law enforcement officer, following the shootings Thursday of several police officers in downtown Dallas, early July 8, 2016. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Two of the suspects in custody were witnessed climbing into a black Mercedes with a camouflaged bag before speeding off. They were apprehended in the Oak Cliff area, a suburb southwest of Dallas.
The third suspect in custody was near the El Centro garage.
Brown said there may be more persons involved in the attack, but police remained unsure if the shooters were involved connected with the protest.
“There had to be some speculation from us that there was some knowledge of where the route would be because how would you know to post up there?”
Added Brown: “We were monitoring social media and had attended many of the planning meeting for the protest group. We have yet to determine if there was some complicity with the planning of this [protest] but we will be pursuing this.”
Brown also praised his officers during the news conference.
“I’ve never been more proud … seeing the courage, the professionalism and just the grit to stay on scene in an area looking for suspects, knowing we are vulnerable,” Brown said of his officers.
Dallas Mayor Mark Rawlings added to Brown’s praise.
“It is a heartbreaking morning,” Rawlings said. “To lose these four officers that proudly served our citizens. To say that our police officers put their life on the line every day is no hyperbole, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a reality.”
The names of most of the injured and killed officers have not be released.
One has: The deceased Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer’s name is Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old officer and the first to be killed in the line of duty since DART formed its own police department in 1989, the organization said in a statement.
The deceased Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer’s name is Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old officer and the first to be killed (TWITTER)
“We are grateful to report the three other DART police officers shot during the protest are expected to recover from their injuries,” the statement read.
Their names are Omar Cannon, 44, Misty McBride, 32, and Jesus Retana, 39.
At a news conference from Warsaw, Poland, around 4:19 a.m. central time President Obama called the attack “a vicious, calculated and despicable.”
“I believe I speak for every single American when I say we are horrified over these events,” Obama said.
He called on Americans to “profess our profound gratitude tot eh men and women in blue” and to remember the victims, in particular.
“Today, our focus is on the victims and their families, Obama said. “They are heartbroken. The entire city of Dallas is grieving. Police across America, a tight-knit family, feels this loss to their core.”
Rawlings said downtown Dallas remains an active crime scene. Several buildings have been closed Friday. For a full list, the mayor said to visit the City of Dallas’ website.
No more press conferences are expected tonight, though police will continue to update media through social media.
It has been a devastating night. We are sad to report a fifth officer has died.