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Dallas ambush: 5 officers slain, 7 wounded, 1 suspect dead

This undated photo posted on Facebook on April 30, 2016, shows Micah Johnson, who was a suspect in the sniper slayings of five law enforcement officers in Dallas Thursday night during a protest over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. An Army veteran, Johnson tried to take refuge in a parking garage and exchanged gunfire with police, who later killed him with a robot-delivered bomb, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said. | Facebook via AP

DALLAS — A sniper opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas, killing five officers and injuring seven others during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men, police said.

The sniper, identified by authorities as 25-year-old Micah Johnson, died after exchanging gunfire in a parking garage downtown with police, who used a robot to send in explosives to end the standoff. Before he died, the sniper told police he was upset about the recent police shootings of black people and wanted to kill white people, particularly white police officers, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said.

In all, 12 officers and 2 civilians were shot during the downtown protest march, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

Johnson, a black man who lived in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, had served from March 2009 to April 2015 in the Army Reserve and did one tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Police searched Johnson’s home and found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition and a personal journal of combat techniques.

President Barack Obama on Friday called the ambush “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement” in Dallas and vowed to bring the people responsible to justice.

It is believed to be the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The gunfire broke out around 8:45 p.m. Thursday while hundreds of people were gathered to protest fatal police shootings this week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Brown told reporters officers were fired upon “ambush style.”

Protests also were held in several other cities across the country Thursday night after a Minnesota officer on Wednesday fatally shot Philando Castile while he was in a car with a woman and a child. The aftermath of the shooting was livestreamed in a widely shared Facebook video. A day earlier, Alton Sterling was shot in Louisiana after being pinned to the pavement by two white officers. That, too, was captured on a cellphone video.

Video footage from the Dallas scene showed protesters were marching along a street in downtown, about half a mile from City Hall, when the shots erupted and the crowd scattered, seeking cover.

Brown said it appeared the intent was “planned to injure and kill as many officers” as possible.

In the initial hours, police were operating under the assumption that there were more than one shooter, though eventually they determined that Johnson was the only assailant.

The search for shooters stretched throughout downtown, an area of hotels, restaurants, businesses and some residential apartments. The scene was chaotic, with helicopters hovering overhead and officers with automatic rifles on the street corners.

A mother covers her children as Dallas police respond to shots being fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests. Five o
A mother covers her children as Dallas police respond to shots being fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests. Five officers were killed, police said. | Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP

“Everyone just started running,” Devante Odom, 21, told The Dallas Morning News. “We lost touch with two of our friends just trying to get out of there.”

One woman was taken into custody in the same parking garage where the standoff was ongoing, Brown said. Two others were taken into custody during a traffic stop.

Brown said police don’t have a motivation for the attacks. He said the shooter had “some knowledge of the route” protesters would take. He said authorities have not determined whether any protesters were involved with or were complicit in the attack.

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The FBI’s Dallas division is providing “all possible assistance,” spokeswoman Allison Mahan said.

Demonstrator Brittaney Peete told The Associated Press that she didn’t hear the gunshots, but she “saw people rushing back toward me saying there was an active shooter.”

Peete said she saw a woman trip and nearly get trampled.

Late Thursday, Dallas police in uniform and in plainclothes were standing behind a police line at the entrance to the emergency room at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. It was unclear how many injured officers were taken there. The hospital spokeswoman, Julie Smith, had no immediate comment.

Three of the officers who were killed were with the Dallas Police Department. One was a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer. Police announced the fifth officer’s death early Friday morning. It wasn’t immediately clear to which department that officer belonged.

Theresa Williams told The Associated Press that the injured civilian was her sister, 37-year-old Shetamia Taylor.

Williams said her sister was at the protests Thursday night with her four sons, ages 12 to 17.

When the shooting began, Taylor threw herself over her sons, Williams said. She was undergoing surgery early Friday after being shot in the right calf.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement saying he has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety director to offer “whatever assistance the City of Dallas needs at this time.”

“In times like this we must remember — and emphasize — the importance of uniting as Americans,” Abbott said.

Other protests across the U.S. on Thursday were peaceful. In midtown Manhattan, protesters first gathered in Union Square Park where they chanted “The people united, never be divided!” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!” In Minnesota, where Castile was shot, hundreds of protesters marched in the rain from a vigil to the governor’s official residence.

In Chicago, police were ordered to work in pairs and urged to exercise extreme caution.

A CPD statement said that Supt. Eddie Johnson would be reaching out to the Dallas Police Department to offer his condolences and any assistance it might need.

Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a statement, saying: “The ambush attack on Dallas police officers is outrageous. The men and women who work every day to protect everyone, including those exercising their right to free speech, deserve our respect and support. The shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota that led to last night’s protests, are deeply distressing. All of these events speak to the lack of unity and trust in many of our communities and underscores the urgency in addressing that lack of trust. Diana and I pray that the victims, their families, and our entire country find strength, healing and peace to rebuild trust among our neighbors and communities.”

Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7, 2016. | Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News
Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7, 2016. | Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News