A rally against police violence became a scene of bedlam when a pair of gunmen opened fire, killing five officers in downtown Dallas Thursday evening. It's the worst loss for law enforcement in the United States since the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001.
At 9 p.m. a hail of gunshots shattered a previously peaceful rally at Belo Garden, sending hundreds of people fleeing through the streets in panic. Chief David Brown at first said that two shooters fired from separate elevated positions above the demonstration, but early Friday police indicated there may have only been one shooter. (We will update this article as information becomes available.)
Three suspects are in custody and are being investigated.
The ambush killed four Dallas police and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer. Five other officers and one civilian were wounded. The names of the DPD officers killed have not yet been released. DART identified its slain officer as Brent Thompson, 43, who joined the agency's police force in 2009. Thompson is the first DART officer to die in the line of duty.
Tyler Lea, a witness, posted on Facebook, “It smells like gunpowder on Main Street.”
The chief said that the gunman "wanted to kill white people, especially white officers" and was "upset about the recent police shootings." The dead gunman told police that he acted alone and was not affiliated with any group or organization.
Three other DART officers are expected to recover from their wounds, DART said.
One of the gunmen cornered himself in a parking garage at El Centro College. At 12:45 a.m., Brown told reporters that authorities were both negotiating and trading gunfire with that suspect. The holed-up suspect "told our negotiators that the end is coming and that he is going to hurt and kill more of us and that there are bombs all over the garage and downtown," Brown said. "So we are being very careful with our tactics."
Shortly before 3 a.m., the police moved a bomb squad robot into position to end the standoff.
"We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was," he said. "Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb."
Police took other suspects into custody who were at the scene and followed several others who left after the shooting started. The police caught them, and as of late last night, detectives were questioning them. "We still don't have complete comfort level that we have all the suspects," Brown said Thursday night. Those in custody are not cooperating, Brown added. One of those suspects is a woman.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said that large sections of downtown Dallas will be sealed off as a crime scene. He said information on closures and details about which buildings may have to be unlocked to allow investigators access can be found on dallascitynews.net.
"It is a heartbreaking morning," Rawlings said.
President Obama spoke about the shootings. “We are horrified over these events,” he said, “and we stand united with the people and the Police Department in Dallas.”
As one of the organizers of the Justice for #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile, the Reverend Jeff Hood was standing behind the old courthouse where protesters were gathering and just crossed the street when gunfire erupted and a police officer collapsed.
Hood says he turned and screamed at the other protesters who were heading his way, “Get back, active shooter,” and started using his cross he often carries on protest walks to push people away.
“There was nothing I could do,” he says. “The only way to stop violence is by practicing nonviolence, and the answer tonight was death.”