Micah Xavier Johnson, the man Dallas police say killed five officers in an ambush attack at a demonstration against police violence Thursday night, told officers he was not affiliated with any group or organization but was targeting white people and white police officers because he was upset about police shootings around the country, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday morning.
Johnson made the statement while negotiating with police during a six-hour standoff as he holed up in a parking garage near El Centro College. The standoff ended when police detonated a bomb attached to a police robot, killing Johnson in the early morning hours Friday.
Details of the deadliest single event for law enforcement in the U.S. since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington emerged slowly Friday as police and residents began to regroup from an assault that sent hundreds of panicked demonstrators running for their lives and resulted in large parts of downtown being cordoned off overnight. A vigil was being organized at UNT in Denton for Friday night, and local restaurant owners and workers rolled out to bring food to hundreds of police officers who spent long hours attempting to piece together what exactly happened near Belo Garden park.
In the hours soon after the shootings, police reported that at least two gunmen opened fire and other suspects had been detained. Though Johnson claimed he was the only shooter, Brown said police are continuing to investigate whether others were involved. Three people — two men seen throwing a camouflage bag into the back of a black Mercedes and a woman near the garage — were arrested Thursday night, but Brown offered no information on why they were still being held.
Four officers from the Dallas Police Department and one officer from the DART police were killed following an otherwise peaceful protest and march by hundreds of demonstrators moved by the deaths of two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana at the hands of police in unrelated incidents this week. Those killings, the latest in a string of police shootings involving black men, led to demonstrations in cities nationwide.
Seven additional officers and one civilian suffered gunshot wounds Thursday and are being treated at Parkland and Baylor hospitals.
Of the five officers killed by Johnson, the names of two have been made public as of Friday afternoon. Brent Thompson had been a DART police officer since 2009. He was well-regarded by his colleagues, DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said. In an interview with the Today Show Friday, DART Police Chief James Spiller said that Thompson had married in the last two weeks. Before working for DART, Thompson was an international police liaison officer for federal contractor DynCorp International in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2008, the company confirmed to the Observer Friday.
Vivienne Vermuth, a local burlesque performer who attended the rally that preceded the shooting, told the Observer that she also lived next door to Thompson in Corsicana.
"[The Thompsons] lived next to us with their twin girls. I used to babysit them and play with them for years until we moved away. He was such a good man. He was such an honest man," she said.
Vermuth says Thompson was kind to those he interacted with in the line of duty.
"He would be the guy who, if he pulled you over going 10 miles over the speed limit and you didn't have a record, would say, 'Just slow down, be safe.' He'd let you off with a warning. He was such a kind and gentle man," she said.
After the initial rally at Belo Garden spun out into a planned march to Main Street Garden to the east, Vermuth described what happened as she and her fellow marchers headed back west, toward the Dallas County Records Building.
When we got to the Records Building there were eight or 900, maybe 1,000, people. [The protest] had grown exponentially. A couple of people spoke, and then when we were done [the organizer] said, 'OK, we're going to march back to our original location. We'll talk a little bit more.' We were all talking about how positive the event had been. At one point, a couple of people started yelling, 'Fuck the police!' and people started shushing them, saying, 'No. Not here.' No one was there against the cops. We were there to rally around senseless murder and police brutality. I feel confident that everyone knew that didn't mean all cops. No one was against all police.
We all started filing away and it was probably a block or two in when, at the beginning of the line, we started seeing people running and hearing all the shots ... We heard them really loudly, but we couldn't see where it was coming from. People were yelling, 'It's coming from up top!' but I couldn't see anyone firing directly. It wasn't until 9:45 or 10 when they started announcing who had been hurt [that we understood cops had been exclusively targeted]. I saw the first officer go down about 200 feet from me. I turned and ran. I had a group of four with me and we ran around the side of the building. Then we started hearing shots on that side of the building and people kept saying, 'You need to get out of here.' So we ran.
The attitude of civilians and cops after the shooting began was one of shared fear, not confrontation, Vermuth said.
"None of the cops were angry with us or mad at us. They all said, 'Are you okay.' All of them were terrified too. I think we all knew these were the actions of some lone person," she said. "I was not there at ground zero for the duration of the shootout, but [the cops] were not there to brutalize or hurt any of the protesters. I know they grabbed a couple of people, but at the same time, they didn't know what was going on. I can't even think about how it would have been to do their job last night. We were all in it together, I felt."
Dallas Police Department Officer Patrick Zamarripa was mourned Friday by his father on Facebook.
The suspected shooter, Johnson, was discharged from the Army Reserve in April 2015, according to Army records, after having served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom from November 2013 until July 2014.
At a lunchtime Thanksgiving Square vigil for victims of the tragedy, Brown called Johnson's attack well planned and well thought-out. Despite Johnson's death, he said, DPD was still looking for additional suspects.
"We won't rest until we bring everyone involved to justice," the chief said.