Snipers operating from rooftops in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack during one of several protests across the United States against the killing of two black men by police this week.
Police described Thursday night’s ambush as carefully planned and executed and said they had taken three people into custody before a fourth died. Dallas-based media said the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a standoff that extended into Friday morning.
The fourth suspect exchanged gunfire with police during the standoff at a downtown garage and warned of placing bombs throughout the city. Police have not yet confirmed his death but said no explosives have been found.
The attack came in a week that two black men were fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside Minneapolis. The killings, both now the subject of official investigations, inflamed tensions about race and justice in the United States.
The shots rang out as a protest in Dallas was winding down, sending marchers screaming and running in panic through the city’s streets.
It was the deadliest day for police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
A total of 12 police officers and two civilians were shot during the attack, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CBS News. Three of the officers who were shot were women, he said.
Rawlings said the people in custody, including one woman, were “not being cooperative” with police investigators. He said the assailant who was dead was being fingerprinted and his identity checked with federal authorities.
Police were still not certain they knew all of the individuals involved in the attack, Rawlings said.
No motive has been given for the shootings at the downtown protest, one of many held in major cities across the United States on Thursday. New York police made more than a dozen arrests on Thursday night, while protesters briefly shut down one of Chicago’s main arteries.
One of the dead officers was identified as Brent Thompson, 43. He was the first officer killed in the line of duty since Dallas Area Rapid Transit formed a police department in 1989, DART said on its website. Thompson joined DART in 2009.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the shooters, some in elevated positions, used rifles to fire at the officers in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.
“(They were) working together with rifles, triangulating at elevated positions in different points in the downtown area where the march ended up going,” Brown told a news conference, adding a civilian was also wounded.
A video taken by a witness shows a man with a rifle crouching at ground level and shooting a person who appeared to be wearing a uniform at close range. That person then collapsed to the ground.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video.
President Barack Obama, who was traveling in Poland, expressed his “deepest condolences” to Rawlings on behalf of the American people.
Obama said the FBI was in contact with Dallas police and that the federal government would provide assistance.
“We still don’t know all of the facts. What we do know is that there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” he said.
The shooting, which erupted shortly before 9 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT), occurred near a busy area of downtown Dallas filled with restaurants, hotels and government buildings.
Mayor Rawlings advised people to stay away on Friday morning as police combed the area. Transportation was halted and federal authorities stopped commercial air traffic over the area as police helicopters hovered.
Large sections of downtown remained closed to the public on Friday morning.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the nation’s most populous and is home to more than 7 million people.
Over the last two years, there have been periodic and sometimes violent protests over the use of police force against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York. Anger has intensified when the officers were acquitted in trials or not charged at all.
‘THE END IS COMING’
The suspect in the Dallas standoff had told police “the end is coming” and that more police were going to be hurt and killed. Police chief Brown said the suspect also told police “there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown”.
Police said they were questioning two occupants of a Mercedes they had pulled over after the vehicle sped off on a downtown street with a man who threw a camouflaged bag inside the back of the car. A woman was also taken into custody near the garage where the standoff was taking place.
“We are leaving every motive on the table on why this happened and how this happened,” Brown said.
Mayor Rawlings visited the wounded at Parkland hospital, the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after he was shot in Dallas in November 1963.
“(The attack) does have a very strange feel to it,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN. “There is something missing here. Obviously there is a lot of information we don’t have.”
Outside the hospital, officers stood in formation and saluted as bodies of the officers were about to be transported.