At Dallas memorial, tears of sadness, anger; police headquarters locked down

Dallas mourns fallen officers a day after shooting

Residents pay their respects at a makeshift memorial at the Dallas Police Department headquarters in honor of the five officers who were killed in an ambush­style attack overnight. (Brittany Peterson / McClatchy)
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Residents pay their respects at a makeshift memorial at the Dallas Police Department headquarters in honor of the five officers who were killed in an ambush­style attack overnight. (Brittany Peterson / McClatchy)

Makeshift memorials continue to grow in downtown Dallas, two days after a gunman opened fire on police officers in a “cowardly” act of violence.

Meanwhile, Dallas police headquarters was placed on lockdown at about 4 p.m. as SWAT team members investigated what Star-Telegram media partner WFAA reported officials as saying was a serious threat.

“The Dallas Police Department received an anonymous threat against law enforcement across the city and has taken precautionary measures to heightened security,” Dallas police said in a statement early Saturday evening, WFAA reported.

Few other details were immediately available.

Earlier in the day, Louis Padilla, 50, an Army veteran, came with his wife to police headquarters, carrying questions that may never be answered.

“I’m angry. I just don’t understand it, I understand the protests and the importance but it didn’t have to end this way,” Padilla said. “We wanted to come and show our support so they know that no matter what, we back them up.”

“The healing process hasn’t even begun yet. We’re still trying to understand it.”

Dallas police say the gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, acted alone in Thursday night’s ambush, which came at the end of a Black Lives Matter protest march in downtown. Five officers were killed, seven others and two civilians were wounded.

Johnson fired from elevated positions inside El Centro Community College and on the street before hiding in a parking garage, where police cornered him and spent hours in intense negotiations before deploying a robot with a bomb to take him out.

Police Chief David Brown said Johnson repeatedly talked about his hatred of white people, “especially police officers,” and described his actions as “cowardly.”

Johnson, 25, lived in Mesquite with his mother and had previously served in the U.S. Army, including a nine-month tour in Afghanistan.

Padilla said he’s ashamed to even call the shooter a veteran.

“He should’ve known the war is over there, not over here,” Padilla said.

‘We are here to help’

Downtown Dallas was mostly quiet Saturday morning, except for dozens of news reporters — local, national and international — doing live broadcasts near the area where the ambush occurred.

As the investigation continues, police officers guarded the barricaded areas of blocked of streets.

At Dallas police headquarters on Lamar Street, a steady stream of people stood near two parked police cars covered in flowers, sticky notes, balloons and other tokens of appreciation.

A mixed bag of emotions were visible through tears of sadness and anger. Some people came and went quickly, while others stayed longer, reflecting — remembering those who died.

Members of the Heroes, Cops and Kids organization, dressed as Captain America, The Hulk and Batman, were busy handing out stickers and talking to kids.

“I have a responsibility as a former officer to help teach these children to have good values so they will grow up to make good decisions and not be criminals,” said former officer Ricardo Campbell, dressed as Batman.

Though spreading a message of love, hope and healing, Campbell said his anger is strong.

“Someone has to speak up and as an African American man, I don’t condone this behavior,” Campbell said.

Veronica Sites, of Fort Worth, a chaplain for the Victim Relief Crisis Response Team, said the most crucial time for those on the front line of this tragedy is 24 to 72 hours after the event.

“What we try to do is interrupt the feelings they are having that might lead to post traumatic stress disorder, we call it verbal triage,” she said. “We are here to help them process and grieve. Right now, I wanted to come out here for the community.”

Dallas police officer J.P. Ransom, said he and his comrades were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

“It’s touching all of us,” Ransom said. “We come out here and see all this and we just really appreciate it.”

The bodies of two of the police officers killed near the end of a Black Lives Matter protest march in Dallas left Baylor Hospital early Friday morning.

‘Wanted to save lives and protect people’

Four of the officers killed worked for the Dallas Police Department and the other for DART, or Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Officers killed were: Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a Fort Worth native; Michael Krol, 40, who had lived in Burleson and Fort Worth; Michael Smith, 55, of Carrollton; and Lorne Ahrens, 48, of Burleson.

DART officer Brent Thompson, 43, of Corsicana was the first DART officer to die in the line of duty.

Terry Mack, a DART police officer, said he stopped by the memorial to pay his respects and take a photo.

He had been the DART office Saturday morning and said it was quiet as most people are still trying to process what happened.

Thompson was the first DART officer to die in the line of duty since the agency’s police department was established in 1989.

Thompson was recently married and his wife also works for the DART police force.

“He was a brave man dedicated to his family,” Tara Thornton, a close friend of Thompson’s 22-year-old daughter, told the Associated Press. “He loved being a police officer. He instantly knew that’s what he wanted to do. He knew he wanted to save lives and protect people. He had a passion for it.”

Mack said there are still two DART officers in the hospital, recovering from their gunshot wounds.

“I want people to know that not everyone is bad out here doing bad things,” Mack said. “We need support from the community to help us do our jobs better out here.”

Euless police officer Allie Galloway, a member the honor guard that carried slain officer David Hofer’s casket at his funeral, said she already knows she will be part of Thompson’s funeral and most likely the four Dallas officers’ as well.

“This is just too soon and hits too close to home for us,” she said.

‘Just like a bright light’

In Fort Worth, the tributes continued to roll in for Zamarripa, a 2001 graduate of Paschal High School and Navy veteran who had served three tours of duty in Iraq.

Cathleen Richardson was assistant principal at Rosemont Middle School when Zamarripa attended there.

“I remember him being so happy,” she said.

Andrew Williams, then the band director at the south side middle school, remembers Zamarripa as a talented musician who played in the school’s jazz and symphonic bands, as well as lead trumpet in the school’s mariachi band.

“Back in the ’90s at Rosemont, it was kind of inner city — lots of gang activity, lots of problem kids,” Williams recalled. “He was always just like a bright light.”

Zamarripa was an “adorable kid” with a baby face but a mature and helpful personality, Williams said. He often helped other students learn their parts and was often found practicing after school and on his lunch break, he added.

“You could totally see him turning into something great,” Williams said. “Of course, that’s what he did.”

Williams said while he last saw Zamarripa at Paschal High, he was not surprised to learn Friday that Zamarripa had gone on to join the military and eventually become a Dallas police officer.

“I probably cried for about an hour yesterday morning when I found out,” he said, referring to Zamarripa’s death. “My son is 13, about the age of when I met Patrick. I said that could have been my son right there. He’s the kind of kid you want your son to be.”

Zamarripa’s wife, Kristy Zamarripa, posted a message on her Facebook page thanking “everyone from the bottom of my heart for all of your love and support.”

“This is something I never thought could ever happen to us. We were not done spending our lives together,” she wrote. “Because of this disgusting display of hate, my daughter will not have her daddy to walk her down the aisle and my son will not have his ‘best buddy’ to play football and baseball with. I finally found the love of my life and now have to endure a lifetime without my lobster.”

A family friend has set up a gofundme account to help the family with expenses. By Saturday afternoon, it had raised almost $29,000.

Ahrens a ‘gentle giant’

Rick Owen, pastor of Pathway Church in Burleson, described Ahrens as a “gentle giant” whose large stature served him well on the job but didn’t keep children from flocking to him.

“His smile was just as big as his body and because of that, children just thought he was the coolest thing,” Owen said.

A 14-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, Ahrens worked a different shift from his wife, Dallas police detective Katrina Ahrens, to ensure that one of them was always with their 8-year-old son, Magnus, and 10-year-old daughter, Sorcha.

“I think that was one of the most important priorities in his life — to be a good dad,” Owen said.

Owen said Ahrens often attended the children’s school events and was a popular speaker on career day.

“They were very proud of their dad and what he did. Extremely proud,” he said.

When he heard about the shooting Thursday night, Owen said, he pushed aside concerns that Ahrens, a member of his congregation, could be involved.

“I thought, ‘Hmmm. I haven’t heard anything. He’s OK,’ ” Owen said.

He texted Katrina Ahrens the next morning to be certain.

“She just gave me a simple text back: ‘He didn’t make it,’ ” Owen said. “I couldn’t breathe for a minute.”

He said the Ahrenses were well aware of the risks that came with their jobs.

“They’re just real people. They’re your next-door neighbors. They’re just trying to do their jobs and do the best they can in their jobs and give back to the community. ... They’re just ordinary people doing an extraordinary service.”

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd

WFAA cameras captured the harrowing scene Thursday night in downtown Dallas when the first shots were fired after the police protest.