The gunman killed after a lengthy standoff with police in Dallas before dawn Friday told officers he had acted alone out of a desire to kill white police officers, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at a press conference.
“The suspect stated he was not affiliated with any groups and he stated that he did this alone,” Brown said. “The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
But police are reportedly holding three other suspects in the mass shooting Thursday night that killed five Dallas police and wounded seven others. And the chief hinted that the dead gunman was one of multiple shooters. “We’ve got some level [of confidence] that this one suspect did do some of the shooting,” Brown said.
Brown declined to identify the dead man or discuss who else the Dallas police have in custody Friday. But CBS News and the Los Angeles Times are each reporting his name was Micah Xavier Johnson, citing unnamed law enforcement sources. By mid-afternoon, another unnamed source had told the New York Times that Johnson acted alone, in apparent contradiction to what Brown’s investigators initially believed.
Johnson was an Army Reservist who had served at least one tour in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has told Reuters. Investigators were at Johnson’s family home in nearby Mesquite, TX, on Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News. CNN is reporting that Johnson had no criminal record and no known ties to terrorism.
Reports overnight indicated that three other individuals — a woman arrested near the parking garage where the dead man holed up, and two men picked up in a car in the suburb of Oak Cliff after speeding away from the scene — were being held in connection with the fatal ambush launched on a Black Lives Matter protest march Thursday night. Video snippets of one of the attackers show a figure holding a long gun and displaying some proficiency in basic tactics for a firefight.
Thursday’s demonstration in response to the police killings of Alston Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN, was peaceful and positive. Marchers snapped pictures alongside officers who were dressed in their standard uniforms, not the paramilitary-style riot gear that many police departments around the country have deployed in response to planned protests triggered by police killings.
“These were peaceful protests until this happened,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings (D) said at the press conference. “We’ve been through several protests in the last 5 or 6 years and they’ve all gone in a safe manner.”
The killer or killers opened fire from distant, elevated positions as the demonstration neared the end of its planned route, targeting police as they escorted marchers. At least one civilian protester was also shot. “We have to be right 100 percent of the time in the way we police this city. Suspect like this have to be right once. They don’t have to work very hard to do cowardly acts like this, to snipe at our officers from elevated positions and to ambush them from secreted positions around corners,” Brown said.
Brown’s relaying of the conversation between the dead shooter and the negotiator leaves the attackers’ motives murky. He declined to speculate himself, emphasizing that he could only relay what the dead man had said — including the detail that he was “upset about Black Lives Matter” and “expressed anger for Black Lives Matter.”
The chief did not clarify if the man said he was angry toward the protesters or on their behalf. Black Lives Matter protests have called for justice for the slain, not vengeance. Local protest leaders in Dallas expressed condolences to the families of the fallen police and condemned the murders.
But while pundits and politicians salivate over an imaginary race war, leaders in Dallas were resolute. “All I know is this must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” Brown said. “We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days. Please: We need your support to be able to protect you from men like these.”
The chief emphasized his department’s commitment to protecting citizens’ civil liberties and said the attacks on the officers shepherding marchers through the streets would not change his approach to his job.
“We are not gonna let a coward who would ambush police officers change our democracy,” Brown said. “We won’t militarize our policing standards.”
This article has been updated to reflect new information about Johnson’s background.