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Dallas Police Set to Turn Ambush Investigation Over to District Attorney Next Week

Dallas police honored fallen officers with a memorial ceremony May 17.EXPAND
Dallas police honored fallen officers with a memorial ceremony May 17.
Brian Maschino
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Dallas Police Department officials announced Friday afternoon that the department will turn over its investigation of last year's murders of five Dallas officers to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office next week, more than a year after Micah Johnson opened fire on police following a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas.

At a press conference at Jack Evans Police Headquarters in The Cedars, Assistant Police Chief Randy Blankenbaker outlined why the investigation has taken so long and gave new details about the night of July 7, 2016.

"There's a special investigations unit that investigates all officer-involved shootings, deaths of officers and assaults against officers. Obviously, that unit would immediately become overwhelmed in a situation like this," Blankenbaker said. "That unit, that night, came in, and about the time that they were getting here to headquarters and getting just bits and pieces, that's when the first busload of civilian witnesses came in."

Over the next 24 hours, the unit interviewed more than 240 people, most of whom were police officers, with help from DPD homicide detectives and the department's crimes against persons unit. Each officer interviewed had to go in, give a statement, write an affidavit and then head to the unit that oversees DPD's body camera program, Blankenbaker said. Some officers helped with the investigation for more than 36 hours without getting a break.

With footage from police car dashboard cameras, officers' body cameras and witnesses' cellphones, DPD investigators have looked through more than 500 video files, Blankenbaker said. "A lot of these videos were videos of their brothers in blue being murdered. ...While this was happening, we were getting a chance to attend funerals, to grieve ourselves, but they were working 12-hour days to continue this investigation," he said.

In addition to video evidence, police collected more than 200 rounds at the scene. Most of those rounds, the assistant chief said, were found inside El Centro College, in the 44-foot hallway that divided Johnson from the DPD officers negotiating with him. A police explosive attached to a robot killed Johnson at the scene.

After DPD hands over its evidence to the district attorney, Faith Johnson's office will present the results of the investigation to a grand jury, as it does with every officer-involved shooting. When the case is closed, some materials from the case will become public record. While Texas public records laws exempt "sensitive crime scene images" from disclosure, the wife of one of the deceased officers, Katrina Ahrens, has preemptively sued the city of Dallas and Dallas County to stop the potential release of footage of her husband's death.

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