On the night of July 7, 2016, a sniper opened fire in downtown Dallas, Tex., shooting to death Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa, Sgt. Michael Smith and Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Brent Thompson.
The deadly attack was “well planned,” then Police Chief David Brown said at the time.
By the next morning, residents started arriving at police headquarters, to leave flowers, teddy bears and other tributes and at midday on July 8, 2016, hundreds of people packed Thanks-Giving Square Park in downtown Dallas for a time of prayer, music, tears and tributes.
Afterward, people started lining up to hug the officers stationed there to direct traffic or otherwise assist. The spontaneous display of appreciation went viral, and this Facebook Live video taken that day has been viewed more than 38 million times:
The shooting suspect, Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, was killed after negotiations with authorities failed and a shootout began. A bomb robot ended the standoff.
“He wanted to kill officers. And he expressed killing white people, killing white officers, he expressed anger for Black Lives Matter,” Brown said at a news conference at the time.
Brown is now an author and on-air contributor for ABC. He retweeted his former department’s message in tribute a year after the shootings:
At the downtown Dallas service the day after the shootings, Park Cities Baptist Church Pastor Jeff Warren and Bryan Carter, senior pastor of Concord Church, were among the clergy gathered to offer words of sustenance to a grieving city.
“Pastor Carter and I recently returned from Charleston,” said Warren, referring to a joint pilgrimage to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine people died in a June 2015 mass shooting. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but we’re standing here and we’re ready.”
Warren, who is white, and Carter, who is black, swapped pulpits on Palm Sunday 2015 to support racial unity. Warren urged the crowd to embrace that ideal.
“Find someone of another color. Find someone who is not like you today,” Warren said. “Tell them they’re loved by God, loved by you. Build bridges across racial lines.”
Carter echoed his friend’s sentiments.
“We’re here today because we share a common pain,” he said. “Our hearts are heavy with grief. But we refuse to hate each other. We refuse to point fingers at one another. Together we gather together to commit to pray our way to healing and restoration. We also commit to work together. We believe it takes all of us to bring the healing we all so desperately need.”
A few days after the shootings, friends and relatives of Brent Thompson, one of the fallen officers, gathered in Corsicana, a town of 25,000 about an hour south of Dallas, to say goodbye.
“Law enforcement is under stresses today unlike we’ve ever experienced,” said Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner, one of several law enforcement officials who spoke that night.
He was moved, though, by the people who stood along the route into town when Thompson’s remains were brought home.
“I’ve been a law enforcement officer in this community for over 28 years,” he said. “I have never in my life been touched in a manner that I was in bringing our fallen brother home to our city. The outpouring and showing of love – it was a sight to behold and a fitting tribute to such a fine young man that’s gone too early.”
As the sun went down, mourners held candles in memory, their flames flickering in the hot wind.
“Rest easy, my brother,” Tanner said. “We’ll take it from here.”