As Police Remain On High Alert, Dallas Comes Together In Mourning
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The protest in Dallas on Thursday night had been peaceful. Some demonstrators had brought their kids. Police snapped selfies with protesters. Then shots rang out, screams. The crowd dispersed. And when the sniper shooting stopped, five police officers were dead, at least seven others wounded. The protests had come in response to the deaths of two black men who died after encounters with police, Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana. And so there are prayer services this weekend to mourn the dead. There have also been more protests in cities across the country, from New York to Baton Rouge.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Alton Sterling, Alton Sterling, Alton Sterling, Alton Sterling.
MARTIN: President Obama held a press conference from the NATO summit in Poland. He cautioned not to let the actions of a few define all Americans.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The demented individual who carried out those attacks in Dallas, he's no more representative of African-Americans than the shooter in Charleston was representative of white Americans.
MARTIN: Meanwhile, the city of Dallas remains on edge. Last night, an anonymous threat against police prompted them to cordon off an area around the headquarters and deploy SWAT teams. But that turned out to be a false alarm. As NPR's John Burnett reports from Dallas this morning, a grieving city has responded by embracing its cops.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: So far, donations have poured in. And three of the downed officers' families have each received checks for $100,000. Dallas police deeply appreciate the expression of public support, but well wishes only go so far.
RON PINKSTON: To have some coward sit and wait and assassinate officers, it's - it hurts. It hurts bad.
BURNETT: Detective Ron Pinkston, 30 years on the force, is president of the Dallas Police Association.
PINKSTON: As we talk right now, there's officers out on the street who are hurting from this tragic loss. And they might be answering a call of a man with a gun. And they're going to continue out there to serve the citizens.
BURNETT: Outside police headquarters are parked two squad cars covered with flowers, flags and balloons from sympathizers. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings came to the spontaneous memorial on Saturday looking weary.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MIKE RAWLINGS: This morning when I woke up and saw the pictures on our front page of the officers that died, you realize more existentially the pain that these families are going through.
BURNETT: The five deceased policeman are Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. They ranged in ages from 32 to 55. They were remembered by friends who spoke to The Dallas Morning News as a gentle giant, a former Marine, a cop's cop, a baseball fan and a jokester. Since the shootings, Dallas police have been patrolling in pairs for added security. They have no plans to upgrade their body armor.
Fred Frazier, another official with the police association, says he's concerned because their Kevlar vests are engineered to deflect handgun rounds. The shooter had an assault-style rifle that fires a high-velocity bullet.
FRED FRAZIER: It goes right through it. It goes right through it every time like butter. Our armor's not built for that. It's not built for rifles.
BURNETT: For those who marched with Black Lives Matter through downtown Dallas on Thursday night, this is an experience they'll remember for the rest of their lives. Lourenco Alexander is a 40-year-old dump truck driver who was protesting with his wife and their two boys when the shooting started. He says he grabbed his 7-year-old's wrist, and the family ran as fast as they could to avoid getting trampled by the panicked throng. Later that night, Alexander had the singular responsibility, as a father, to explain what had happened to his frightened, bewildered boy. He spoke outside of his church on Friday night.
LOURENCO ALEXANDER: I told my son, I said that this is a distraction from what we are trying to accomplish. This is just a disruption in the movement that we're trying to stand for. But we can't let this stop us. We can't let this detour us. And I had to go ahead and revert back to our past in the civil rights movement. There was a lot of blood that was shed in the civil rights movement, but it never stopped them from progressing.
BURNETT: Lourenco Alexander says he also told his son that violence begets violence and peaceful protest is the only way to affect change. John Burnett, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.