At the tail end of a horrible, horrible week, five Dallas police officers were killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter march on Thursday night, while seven other officers were wounded. After the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, the Dallas police shooting suspect, Micah Johnson, reportedly said that he wanted to specifically kill white police officers in retaliation.
The police officers escorting the Black Lives Matter protestors had been marching with them in solidarity. And from what we know so far, the five police officers who were killed in the sniper attack were dedicated to protecting their communities. As the New York Times summarizes:
By Friday afternoon, the full scope of the city’s losses was clear: At least two of the slain officers had served overseas in the military, only to die back home in Texas. A third had made his way to Dallas after working at a jail outside Detroit. A fourth was a large man — about 6-foot-5 — who had the semblance of a grizzly bear, according to a friend. The fifth was a standout on Dallas’s large, modern force: The local police association had named him the “Cops’ Cop” for February 2009.
Brent Thompson, who was a 43-year-old officer for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit police department, had gotten married two weeks prior to his death, as USA Today reports. His wife is also a DART officer. Thompson was also a father and grandfather, and had trained Iraqi and Afghan police officers while working for DynCorp International.
Patrick Zamarripa, has served three tours of duty in Iraq as part of the Navy, according to the New York Daily News. He was a five-year police veteran and had a 2-year-old daughter. Zamarripa’s father, Rick, spoke of his son’s generosity in life: ““If he has $1 and you needed it, he’d give it to you. He’s the type of person that would do without so you can have.”
CNN has more details on Lorne Ahrens, 48, who had been with the Dallas police department since 2002. Before that, he served in the 1990s with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and his former colleague, Sgt. Anthony Gunn, described him as a “dedicated professional”:
“He was the kind of guy that it made you happy when you got to work and saw he would be working the shift with you. You could count on him to do the right thing, the right way. He was a dedicated professional. He was well-grounded, seeing the world the way it really, is but not letting the evil in the world discourage him from doing good.”
According to NBC News, Michael Krol had worked in the jails for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office from 2003 to 2007 up in Michigan. Working with the Dallas Police Department was a dream come true for Krol, who was 40 when he died. “He spent some time at the correctional facility,” said his uncle, Jim Ehlke. “It wasn’t quite what he was looking for, so he worked pretty hard to find a job and got one in Dallas.”
Then there was Michael Smith, 55, who was a 26-year veteran with the Dallas Police Department. He won multiple awards for his service, and was known for counseling at-risk youth, and was slashed in the head once while protecting his partner. One famous community member who knew Smith praised the officer on social media:
“Service was more than a job 4 him, it was a way of life. We need more Mike’s,” former American Idol contestant Jason Castro, who said he attended Smith’s church, wrote on Twitter Friday.
That these officers were murdered is a tragedy in and of itself, but even more so, now that we know more about their lives and dedication to their communities. Police brutality against the black community has long been a problem in America, but meeting that violence with this violence has only created more pain and suffering, rather than progress. One could argue that progress was being made before the shootings, with police marching with protestors before the attack, and with officers rushing towards the gunfire to protect people. Let’s hope that progress hasn’t been undone by this attack.