The Cable

Snipers Launched Coordinated Attack Against Dallas Police at Protest March

The motive for the attack, which left five officers dead, is not yet clear.

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Four Dallas Police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer were shot and killed Thursday night during a protest against police shootings that took place earlier this week in Minnesota and Louisiana. Seven other officers were shot and wounded , and three suspects are now in custody. A fourth was killed during a standoff with police.

Law enforcement believes four suspects with rifles positioned themselves strategically to take officers monitoring the protest down. It’s appears to be the worst attack against law enforcement since 9/11. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said a total of 12 officers were shot, along with 2 civilians.

Speaking at a Friday morning press conference, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said one suspect, during a standoff with police, said he was not affiliated with any group. Brown said the suspect told police he was “upset about black lives matter. He said he was upset at the recent police shootings,” and that he wanted to kill while people and white police officers.

Speaking in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday morning, President Barack Obama called the attack “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 to the men and women in blue” and to remember the victims. “The entire city of Dallas is grieving. Police across America, it is a tight-knit family, feels this loss to their core and we are grieving with them.”

As of Friday morning, only one of the slain officers has been identified. Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials said 43-year-old Brent Thompson was one of five killed.  

“As you can imagine, our hearts are broken,” the agency said in a statement. “We are grateful to report the three other DART police officers shot during the protest are expected to recover from their injuries.” These officers have been identified as Omar Cannon, 44, Misty McBride, 32, and Jesus Retana, 39.

The incident comes after Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge on Tuesday morning. Less than 48 hours later, Philando Castile was fatally shot by an officer in Minnesota. For two hours Thursday evening, marchers moved peacefully through downtown Dallas to condemn these incidents. The shooting began around 9 p.m. local time.

What followed is what one witness described as a “little war zone.” As shot rang out, protesters scattered. One, identified as 37-year-old Shetamia Taylor, was shot but is expected to recover.

“All of a sudden we started hearing gunshots out of nowhere,” Lynn Mays, who was downtown when the shooting began, told the Dallas Morning News. A full video of his recollection of the start of the attack is below.

More shocking social media videos of the incident are starting to emerge. In one video, captured by Ismael DeJesus, shows a gunman sneaking up behind a police officer and shooting him in the back (Warning: some might find the video below disturbing).

“It looked like an execution honestly,” Ismael DeJesus, who took the video from an apartment building, told CNN.

One suspect was killed in a standoff with police at the El Centro garage in downtown Dallas. Two other suspects were apprehended in a Dallas suburb. Another, a woman, was taken into custody near El Centro garage, according to numerous reports.

At a press conference early Friday morning, Dallas Police Chief Brown said there could be other suspects on the loose. “We still don’t have a complete comfort level that we have all the suspects,” he said.

Brown added the four suspects were “working together with rifles triangulated at elevated positions at different points in the downtown area, where the march ended up going.” He said it was too early to tell if the shooters had any connection to the protest but the possibility was being investigated.

The shootings come at a time of heightened tension between police and much of the country. A long string of deaths of black people at the hands of the police in Staten Island; Cleveland; Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo.; North Charleston, S.C., Minnesota, and Louisiana — many of which were caught on video — have stirred outrage and caused a heated debate about the poor state of relations between the African American and law enforcement communities. On Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, speaking about a video of Philando Castile, who was filmed dying after being shot by police, said, “Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white? I don’t think it would have.”

“When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us,” Obama said Thursday night. “This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.”

They also come amid heightened fears of an attack by the Islamic State, although there is no indication that the shootings were an act of Islamic terrorism.

Photo credit: LAURA BUCKMAN/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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