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Gunman Kills Dallas Police Officers In Attack On Black Lives Matter Protest


In Dallas today, grief and mourning over five police officers killed by a gunman last night and also resolve to seek both justice for the victims' families and reconciliation for a traumatized city. NPR's John Burnett reports from Dallas.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The people of Dallas are trying to come to terms with this unforeseen earthquake of violence that struck the city at sunset yesterday. To that end, political and religious leaders gathered at a downtown park at noon today under a sweltering sun for a prayer service.

Officials say the suspected shooter, who was black, told police negotiators shortly before they killed him that he wanted to kill white people. Pastor Bryan Carter retorted.


BRYAN CARTER: And we refuse to hate each other.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: That's right.


BURNETT: The beleaguered police chief David Brown, a native of Big D, told his citizens that during this time of trauma, he needs for them to show police officers support and appreciation for their daily sacrifice. Brown also hinted at the preparation the sniper took in advance of his shooting spree on the second story of a downtown community college. Police used a bomb-laden robot to kill the suspect, an Army reservist who served in Afghanistan named Micah Johnson. He barricaded himself inside a parking garage.


DAVID BROWN: Through our investigation of some of the suspects, it's revealed to us that this was a well-planned, well thought out evil tragedy by these suspects. And we won't rest until we bring everyone involved to justice.

BURNETT: This downtown park, Thanks-Giving Square, was founded after the Kennedy assassination to foster peace and unity. Religious leaders had gathered here recently to mark the killing of nine church members at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C., a year ago and again to stand in solidarity with the 49 dead in an Orlando nightclub. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, with visible emotion, says he never imagined these interfaith gatherings were a dress rehearsal.


MIKE RAWLINGS: Today, we find ourselves here again, and this time the terror has hit us right here in downtown Dallas, just a few blocks away, the worst that's happened to law enforcement in our city's history, the worst attack on law enforcement in our country since 9/11.

BURNETT: The police chief said they don't believe the shooter was part of any organization or network. A black Methodist preacher at the service said, we're not black Dallas, we're not white Dallas, we're not police Dallas. We're the city of Dallas, one family. And yet, how this tragic event affects relations between police and the black community worries James Anderson. He's an accountant who works downtown.

JAMES ANDERSON: If you're an officer, now you've got to go into areas that, you know, you don't know how safe that area is. So now you've got you - you're on a heightened sense of alert, you're in a heightened sense of danger. It's only going to lead to more mistakes.

BURNETT: Since last evening, there have also been inevitable references to the great scar on Dallas history, the death of President Kennedy in 1963. Indeed, the grassy knoll in the Book Depository are only blocks from the police shooting. It's taken Dallas half a century to overcome that infamous event, and it has. But as the Dallas Morning News columnist wrote in today's edition, this is one of those moments that is going to test all of us. Dallas, our home, is about to become famous again for all the wrong reasons. John Burnett, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.
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