Eleven police officers were shot and five died Thursday night when two snipers opened fire at the conclusion of a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, officials said.
Two officers were in surgery and three are in critical condition, the department said. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit authority said at least four of its officers were shot and one is dead.
With three suspects in custody after midnight, a fourth died at around 3 a.m. from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a standoff in a downtown parking garage with law-enforcement agents. Dallas Police Chief David Brown said that during questioning, one of the suspects vowed to “kill and hurt” more police and said bombs were planted “all over the place.” He also said that “the end is coming.”
Although the motive of the attack was not immediately clear, the perpetrators carried out a well-organized ambush. One shooter appeared to have been using a rifle, and other reports indicated another shooter was armed in tactical gear. Brown said that two suspects, who were firing from elevated positions, had threatened to plant a bomb in downtown Dallas, with federal agencies including the ATF now involved in a full search of the area. Fearing another attack, the mayor of Dallas asked residents to avoid the downtown area Friday morning.
The identities of the suspects have not yet been released. One of those in custody had earlier engaged in a shootout with Dallas SWAT officers, police officials said, adding that a suspicious package had been found nearby. One man holding a long rifle at the protest—whose picture was tweeted by the Dallas Police Department and called a “suspect”—turned himself in. At a press conference late Thursday night, Brown identified him only as a “person of interest.”
“They tried to injure as many law enforcement officers as they could,” said Brown.
Later in the night, police said a man carrying a camouflage bag entered a black Mercedes, which “sped off at a high rate of speed.” Officials tracked the car down and took the two people inside into custody.
The incident triggered a massive police response. Bus and rail service in the city were immediately suspended.
Michael Bautista, an eyewitness who filmed a Facebook live video from the scene, told KDFW the protests started out peaceful, but the area was left looking like a war zone. “The next thing I remember is that we made it to the courthouse… and instead of getting photos, I ended up getting shot at,” Bautista said, adding that he hid behind a car to protect himself from gunfire.
Demonstrators were gathering in downtown Dallas in the wake of two recent police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Alton Sterling was fatally shot outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge in an encounter that was caught on video. In Minnesota, Philando Castile was shot and killed in his car during a routine traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the vehicle with him, captured the aftermath on Facebook live. Both incidents went viral on social media and ignited nationwide protests, including in front of the White House and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.