Dallas shootings: US shaken after racially motivated ambush

Explosive materials, bullet-proof vests and rifles found in home of attacker

The United States was left reeling from the deadliest attack on American law enforcement since 9/11 as five policemen were shot dead and seven other officers wounded in what appears to be a racially motivated sniper attack in Dallas.

Twelve officers and two civilians were shot in an "ambush-style" sniper attack as a peaceful protest against the police killings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota this week descended into chaos.

A sniper, later identified as Micah Xavier Johnson (25), a former army reserve and Afghanistan war veteran, opened fire on the officers monitoring the protest with an assault rifle. Two civilians were injured.

The shootings were captured on mobile phone video by bystanders. Police officers were shown taking cover behind cars or tending to the wounded. One video showed a gunfight with a suspect shooting an officer at point-blank range as he lay on the ground.


Violent stand-off

Dallas police chief David Brown said the gunman told negotiators during a violent three-hour stand-off that "he was upset about Black Lives Matter", the movement protesting against police killings of black men, and about recent police shootings.

“The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” Mr Brown told reporters yesterday morning.

Police said Johnson told them that he was not affiliated with any group and was acting alone. They declined to disclose information about three other suspects in custody.

Johnson was cornered in a parking garage in downtown Dallas and later killed by a police explosive device after attempts to persuade him to surrender were unsuccessful.

The suspect said “the end is coming” and that he was going to “hurt and kill more of us” and there were “bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown,” Mr Brown said.

“We saw no other option to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” he said.

The killings marked the culmination of three days of horrific gun violence that triggered protests in cities across the US on Thursday night and reignited a national debate about alleged police brutality against young black men.

‘Despicable attack’

US president

Barack Obama

said Americans were “horrified” by the latest shooting, an attack he called “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”

The Dublin-born Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell said last night that the killings were “a symptom” of the heightened political rhetoric and increasing polarisation in US society.

Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings confirmed that the dead suspect Johnson was the gunman behind Thursday night’s attack.

Detectives trying to piece together Johnson’s background found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests and rifles along with a “personal journal of combat tactics” in his home. He had no criminal history.

Mr Rawlings, describing the suspect as “a mobile shooter,” said that Johnson had written a manifesto on how to shoot and move.

While Johnson was described as a lone gunman, police have not ruled out the possibility of co-conspirators.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch urged Americans not to make violence the “new normal” after the Dallas attack and a week of “profound grief”.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent