In Memoriam - July 7, 2016, Dallas
On the morning of July 7th, 2016 the lives of the families of five Dallas police officers would change forever. These officers were proud husbands, brothers, and fathers to the people who loved them before their lives were taken by a manic gunman in downtown Dallas on this day six years ago. The attacker was named Micah Johnson and his goal that day was to cause death and anguish to as many white police officers as possible during a protest by the anti-police group by the name of Next Generation Action Network in downtown Dallas.
Johnson had a troubled childhood. He was always in trouble and received very low marks throughout his schooling. After finishing high school, Johnson enlisted in the military where he would go on to be a carpentry and masonry specialist in the reserves. Throughout his time in the military, Johnson seemed to take a number of downhill turns according to his colleagues. Johnson kept to himself, choosing to eat in his vehicle instead of socializing over meals with his fellow soldiers. Things took a turn for Johnson when he was accused of sexual harassment by a female soldier. The soldier claimed that Johnson had stolen her underwear and even punched the window out of a car upon hearing the female soldier's decision to leave for college. These incidents caused Johnson to be put under 24-hour surveillance and he was moved to another base away from the woman. In his hastily organized relocation, Johnson was not able to pack up his room entirely and military officials found unauthorized explosives and ammunition along with stolen prescription medications in Johnson's room. After Johnson was discharged from the military, he accelerated his path to full radicalization by stockpiling guns and ammunition and taking tactical attack classes. Johnson's online activity further pointed towards radicalization by being part of various online radical anti-white and anti-police groups. He was even kicked out of some of these groups for his obsession with killing the police. Johnson’s obsession culminated on July 7th 2016 when he shot and killed five officers and injured another nine while shooting from various vantage points in downtown Dallas in a sniper-like fashion. At the end of his killing spree, Johnson trapped himself in a room and negotiations with the police began. The negotiations did nothing to change Johnson's mind so police had to resort to ending Johnson's tirade by using a remote explosive to end the standoff, killing Johnson instantly.
Photo by Gessel Tobias, VOA via WikiCommons, Public Domain.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about this massacre is the devoted and selfless men that the Dallas community lost on this day. Officers Lorne Ahrens and Brent Thompson were both family men who loved their children and their community with an unwavering passion. Officer Lorne served 14 years for the Dallas Police Department and leaves behind a wife and two children. Officer Brent Thompson who worked for DART police, and overseas as an international police liaison, leaves behind six children and his wife. Officer Michael Krol was a gentle giant with a passion for serving his community that he actualized by graduating from the Dallas Police Academy in 2008 fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. Officer Patrick Zamarripa and Sgt. Michael Smith were both veterans of our nation's armed forces that answered the call to not just protect their country but also the communities within it. These men are a testament to the dangers law enforcement could face at any moment and they truly exemplify what it means to put others first. Mental illness is a pervasive problem in our country today and some people that fall through the cracks end up becoming monsters like Micah Johnson. On that fateful day, the only thing standing in between Johnson and the general public were the courageous officers that ultimately shut him down. Additionally, these officers were at an immense disadvantage because the officers assigned to the protest were instructed by their chief as a direct order from Mayor Rawlings not to wear their protective vests and helmets in an attempt to dampen the notion that the police needed to protect themselves from the protesters.
Mental illness is a major problem in the United States today and treatment must be made more widely available so that people like Johnson could be identified and treated in order to prevent another disaster. However, there are still going to be people that have an unimaginable level of darkness and hatred in their hearts which manifest in violence towards others and law enforcement will continue to be the steadfast boundary between these people and our communities. We owe an immense appreciation for the officers fallen and alive that put their lives at risk to protect our community on that terrible day and we must provide care, and pray for the families of those fallen officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our safety. Law enforcement is our country is being targeted and taken advantage of with increasing frequency.