A black U.S. Army reservist who served in the Afghan war and said he wanted to “kill white people” took part in an attack in which five police officers were shot dead at a protest decrying police shootings of black men, officials said on Friday.
Seven other police officers and two civilians were wounded in the ambush in downtown Dallas on Thursday night, officials said. Police killed the gunman, identified by a U.S. government source as Micah Xavier Johnson, using a bomb-carrying robot after an hours-long standoff.
The shooting sent swarms of protesters running in panic in the streets as police officers came under fire.
The shootings, the latest major gun violence to rock the United States, took place toward the end of a march protesting incidents earlier in the week in Louisiana and Minnesota in which police fatally shot black men in confrontations whose bloody aftermath was caught on video.
The Dallas shootings came during a week of heightened emotions over police use of force against black suspects and raised fears that others might seek to retaliate against police.
“This was a well-planned, well-thought-out, evil tragedy by these suspects. And we won’t rest until we bring everyone involved to justice,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown said. “We are determined to not let this person steal this democracy from us.”
During lengthy negotiations with police, the gunman said “the end is coming,” Brown told reporters.
“He said he was upset about the recent police shootings,” said Brown, who is black. “The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
Authorities said that the gunman fired at least some of the shots in the attack but have not ruled out that other shooters were involved. Details on how the shootings unfolded remained unclear. It also was not clear how one person could have shot so many officers, though video of the attack taken by a witness shows a gunman carrying an assault-style weapon and carrying large amounts of ammunition.
The video shows a man with a rifle crouching at ground level and charging at and then shooting another person who appeared to be wearing a uniform. That person then collapsed to the ground.
The U.S. Army said Johnson had served as a private first class in the Army Reserve, made up of part-time soldiers, and was deployed to Afghanistan from November 2013 to July 2014. It said Johnson served from March 2009 to April 2015 and was a carpentry and masonry specialist with the 420th Engineering Brigade based in Texas.
In Poland for a NATO summit, President Barack Obama called the shooting “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.” Obama, who has been stymied by the Republican-led Congress in his bid for new gun control laws, added, “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic.”
A string of killings of black men and boys by police in cities including Ferguson, Missouri, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Tulsa, Oklahoma and North Charleston, South Carolina have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement against excessive police force. The killings have spurred almost two years of periodic and largely peaceful street protests.
Police believed during the shooting that they were under attack by multiple gunmen using high-powered rifles at ground level and on rooftops.
‘HEARTACHE AND DEVASTATION’
Reverend Jeff Hood, an organizer of Thursday night’s protest in Dallas, said he had been chatting with some of the police officers on the street when gunfire erupted.
“I saw what I believe were two police officers that went down. I didn’t know what to do,” Hood told reporters on Friday. “If we continue to turn to violence, we are going to continue to see heartache and devastation.”
It was the deadliest day for police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Three of the officers who were shot were women. One of the dead officers was identified as Brent Thompson, 43, who joined the Dallas Area Rapid Transit police department in 2009.
One of the other officers killed was Patricio Zamarripa, 32, an U.S. Navy veteran, according to media reports and his friends on social media.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department would assist in the investigation into the shooting.
“Do not let this week precipitate a new normal in this country,” Lynch told reporters in Washington.
The shooting happened as otherwise largely peaceful protests unfolded around the United States after the police shooting of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, on Wednesday during a traffic stop near St. Paul, Minnesota.
The day earlier, police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot dead Sterling, 37, while responding to a call alleging he had threatened someone with a gun.