Six of the Biggest Misconceptions From the Dallas Shooting, Debunked

Belo Garden, just after the shooting.
Belo Garden, just after the shooting.
Stephen Young

Last Thursday's police ambush in downtown Dallas was a perfect storm for confusion. A big, participatory event (the protest against police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota) with media in place on the ground. Mix in social live-streaming through Facebook live and apps like Periscope. Add a violent act meant to inspire chaos, and misinformation is bound to flow freely. Dallas Police Chief David Brown, exemplary throughout the shooting and its aftermath, added fuel to the burning rumor fire in his attempt to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible.

Now that we have a clearer picture of just what went down on the west side of Dallas' Central Business District, let's take a look at some of the biggest misconceptions that have surrounded — and continued to surround —  last week's events.

1. Shooter Micah Xavier Johnson, the shooter, was cornered and killed in the El Centro College parking garage. He wasn't. According to El Centro Police Chief Joseph Hannigan, Johnson was cornered and killed by a Dallas Police Andros Mark V-A1 robot and a pound of C4 on the second floor of El Centro's C Building. Johnson shot his way into the college, which doesn't actually have a parking facility of its own, after apparently commencing his attack near El Centro's front entrance on Main Street. The confusion about the exact location of Johnson's death stems largely from statements made early Friday morning referring to the school's Elm Street facing loading dock, which looks like it could be a parking facility, but isn't. 

2. There were multiple arrests made in downtown Thursday night. After Johnson began shooting, Dallas Police detained several people who were legally carrying firearms at the protest. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings estimated about 20 detentions took place. Despite reports, stemming from statements made by Brown at a press conference Thursday night, by multiple media outlets (including the Observer) that three people were arrested after the rally, Dallas police actually made only one arrest connected to the march that preceded the shooting. Brandon Waller, 25, was arrested near the intersection of Main and Field Streets downtown for carrying a brass knuckle knife. Having the illegal weapon meant that the .40 caliber handgun he had on his person was also illegally carried, despite his Virginia concealed carry license. The Observer captured video of his tense arrest: 

3. Micah Johnson killed himself. Right after police sources began telling reporters on the ground downtown that Johnson was dead, KXAS, Dallas' NBC affiliate, reported that Johnson killed himself. It turned out that Johnson was killed by the bomb squad robot. Monday morning, Brown told a press conference that the robot survived the incident, only suffering damage to the arm that carried the C4 that killed Johnson. So even the robot didn't kill itself.

  4. Dallas Police Headquarters suffered an attack on Saturday. Late Saturday afternoon, an anonymous tipster told Dallas police that there was a suspicious person in the parking garage at DPD headquarters. Cops checked it out, blasting open a locked door in the garage with a shotgun. That led to the hoard of reporters on the scene and headquarters reporting that shots had been fired. They hadn't. Nor was there any armed gang from Houston coming up I-45 to take on Dallas cops, as was inexplicably implied by WFAA's Rebecca Lopez. For about an hour Saturday afternoon, there was panic that more was coming; there wasn't. As DPD put it in a tweet, "Reporters putting out misinformation is making our jobs more difficult."

5. Mark Hughes was a suspect.  Thanks to Twitter, the idea that Mark Hughes was a "suspect" was quickly debunked Thursday night. Dallas police released a photo of Hughes with a rifle slung over his shoulder after the shooting, identifying him as a "suspect" with whom the department would like to talk. Hughes' photo circulated like wildfire. Hughes turned himself in and was released in short order, but the photo naming him as a person of interest in the shooting remained up on DPD's Twitter for 17 hours, leading him to tell reporters that he feared for his safety. Chief Brown never used the word "suspect" to describe Hughes, but that didn't stop media from treating him like one.  

Correction 11:08 a.m.: Although Chief Brown never identified Hughes as a suspect, the department's now deleted tweet did, in fact, refer to Hughes as "one of our suspects." The paragraph above has been updated to reflect this more accurately.

Mark Hughes, not a suspect, at the march before the shootings.
Mark Hughes, not a suspect, at the march before the shootings.
Stephen Young

6. There was more than one shooter. At a 12:30 a.m. press conference on Friday, Brown said there were multiple shooters downtown who shot from elevated positions at his officers. It turned out that Johnson was simply shooting and moving around the El Centro campus. In fact, most of his shots were fired from the ground level. Brown was trying to provide the freshest update possible, but was forced to clear up the confusion the next time he spoke to the public at 7 a.m. Friday. Police and federal authorities are still searching for anyone who might have collaborated with Johnson but, for now, he appears to have acted alone.


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