At least one sniper murdered five police officers, and wounded two civilians, in Dallas, Texas during an assembly of peaceful protesters on Thursday evening. On Thursday, the United States saw nationwide protests and turnout from members of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of two black men by police within 24 hours of each other.
On Tuesday, 37-year-old black male Alton Sterling was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when they confronted him for selling CDs in a grocery store parking lot. The next day, Wednesday, 32-year-old black motorist Philandro Castile was shot dead by police in St. Louis, Minnesota after revealing to them that he was legally licensed to carry a gun. Mr. Castile’s last moments were caught on Facebook Live by his girlfriend as he withered in pain after suffering multiple gunshot wounds by the police officer.
Initial statements by police have said that both these shootings were justified, despite national outrage at the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
These latest shootings sparked another wave of protests across the United States with members of the Black Lives Matter movement mobilizing in major cities, including Dallas. According to media reports, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered together in the Belo Garden area of Dallas to march in solidarity against systemic discrimination of people of color.
Around 8:45PM, gunfire broke out creating a panic by Dallas law enforcement officials and protesters. Video and witness testimony showed that protesters, upon hearing the sound of gunfire, rushed away from the scene.
Law enforcement authorities in Dallas confirmed that the gunfire came from at least one sniper, now identified as Micah Johnson, a 25-year old black male based in the suburbs of Mesquite, TX. According to reports, Mr. Johnson had served in the US Army reserves until April 2015. Law enforcement officials have said that Mr. Johnson had no criminal record or any known ties to extremists.
According to the Dallas police, at least five police officers were killed and six other people were injured. Initial reports stated that at least three other men were arrested by police but is not immediately clear whether all those arrested are suspected of being involved with Mr. Johnson.
A black man, Mark Hughes, who had earlier been suspected of being one of the shooters was arrested but eventually released.
The Dallas Chief of Police, David Brown, addressed the public early Friday morning and confirmed that law enforcement had been in negotiation with Mr. Johnson before his death.
Mr. Brown said the suspect "told our negotiators that the end is coming and he's going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement and that there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown, so we are being very careful with our tactics."
Mr. Johnson told police negotiators that he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers, for their violence against black people across the country, according to Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown dismissed reports that Mr. Johnson, who is now deceased, had shot himself. The police chief told the public "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 added, "other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb."
Before the bomb robot killed the suspect he said that he planted bombs in the downtown area. The police have made two sweeps of downtown Dallas and have found no bombs in the area.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial fund, which honors law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, the Thursday attack is the deadliest day for US law officers since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Black Lives Matter demonstrations, which are against the use of violence, are expected to continue nationwide again today. Black Lives Matter protesters, and many other social justice movements, are calling for systemic changes in the policing and judicial systems which unfairly target people of color. The prevalence of police violence against black males has spurred these online and street-level campaigns.
These shootings have also emboldened gun control activists who argue that gun violence in America is endemic and that legal reforms need to be instituted. The Dallas sniper attack comes three weeks after the Orlando terrorist attack, which targeted a gay nightclub in Florida, and resulted in more than 100 people being shot.