A small crowd gathered Thursday as a somber morning broke across the Dallas skyline. They were family members and colleagues of five police and transit officers who died in an ambush during a protest in downtown Dallas a year ago, on July 7.
There were prayers and tears as the Dallas Circle of Heroes Memorial was dedicated. Officers talked of losing patrol partners, brothers and friends.
Mothers, wives and daughters remembered, too, including Valerie Zamarripa of Fort Worth, the mother of Dallas police officer Patrick Zamarripa. He was among hundreds of police officers who were protecting protesters at a Black Lives Matter march when a sniper opened fire.
“We were lost,” Interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes told the gathering Thursday. “We didn’t know how to move forward.”
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Family members and fellow officers are still recovering from the tragedy.
“I feel emotional and honored, yet it is heartbreaking to know that a year has already passed,” Valerie Zamarripa said. “It is not getting easier. It is getting harder every day.”
Patrick Zamarripa’s daughter, 3-year-old Lyncoln, was presented with a blue and black flag. She responded with a quiet, “Dada.”
“He was a glowing star,” said Kristy Zamarripa, Patrick Zamarripa’s widow and Lyncoln’s mother. “She is a little mini version of Patrick. … This is my little Patrick.”
Also killed in the shooting were Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48, of the Dallas Police Department; Michael Krol, 40, of the Dallas Police Department; Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, of the Dallas Police Department; and Brent Thompson, 43, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer.
Dallas police Sgt. Ivan Gunter accepted a flag on behalf of Krol’s family.
He described Krol as a sweet, hard-working officer who always tried his best. The two were in the Dallas Police Department’s Southwest Patrol Division. He said officers carry the loss with them every day.
“You have good days and bad days,” Gunter said. “We are supported by our community and our faith.”
‘They never came home’
As the nation struggled to make sense of the tragedy a year ago, Mike Morgan, a real estate developer with Dallas’ Jim Lake Companies, stirred from a restless night with an idea for honoring the officers.
“I have extreme gratitude for those who serve us,” Morgan said.
He said he began to mentally design a message of thank you for the police community and the city of Dallas. The result of his early vision is the “Dallas Circle of Heroes Memorial” at 1350 Manufacturing St., overlooking the Trinity Strand Trail that meanders along the Trinity River.
The monument, donated by Morgan and Jim Lake Jr., features a flag pole encircled by five plaques bearing short biographies of the fallen police and transit officers. The plaques are mounted on native Texas limestone cut at 45-degree angles.
“All of them have a story, and all of them had a dedication,” Morgan said.
A sixth plaque is called the “biography stone” because it explains the significance of July 7, 2016, and the devastating blow the Dallas community experienced.
“As this marker serves as a symbol of the legacy of our fallen officers; so shall this park be a reminder of their sacrifice and serve as a beacon for healing and comfort to our heroes’ families, friends, fellow officers and our entire Dallas community,” reads part of the message that greets visitors.
“I wanted to express our gratitude,” Morgan said, adding: “These guys got up that morning and they never came home.”
Friday evening, the City of Dallas will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy with a Tribute 7/7 event at City Hall Plaza. That event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will include an honor flag procession by Dallas and DART officers.
Nine officers and two civilians were injured during the shooting, which has been described as one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. law enforcement.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Events begin on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall Plaza, 1500 Marilla St., Dallas. Commemorative ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. To find out more, visit tribute77.org