Officer shot during Dallas police ambush suing Facebook, Google and Twitter over attack

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Five police officers killed a year ago in a downtown Dallas ambush were remembered.
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Five police officers killed a year ago in a downtown Dallas ambush were remembered.

A former Dallas officer who was shot in the deadly 2016 ambush on police accused Facebook, Google and Twitter in a lawsuit filed Wednesday of knowingly supporting and funding a terrorist group.

Jesus Retana was one of 11 officers shot on July 7 by Micah Johnson in downtown Dallas. While police worked a peaceful protest downtown, Johnson opened fire, killing four Dallas police officers and one DART officer.

Retana and his husband, Andrew Moss, say in the suit that Facebook, Google and Twitter are partially responsible for the attack because they allow the terrorist group HAMAS to use their sites. Their attorney, Keith Altman, said the two want to see the social media platforms “take reasonable action to prevent terrorists from using their sites.”

“Right now, they are basically doing nothing,” Altman said.

The suit says Johnson was radicalized by the terrorist group HAMAS, which uses social media to recruit supporters. HAMAS uses its accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube “as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits,” the suit says.

“If you ask my clients, their goal is no more funerals,” Altman said. “No one should lose a loved one or friend to a terrorist attack. And no company should help fund terrorist attacks.”

Altman said the social networks have been instrumental to the rise of HAMAS and enabled it to carry out terrorist attacks and incite others to do the same, such as Johnson’s ambush on Dallas police. HAMAS, for example, has several Twitter accounts with tens of thousands of followers.

Johnson liked pages on Facebook such as the New Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and the Black Riders Liberation Army — all three which are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also liked a page whose leader, Mauricelm-Lei Millere, called for the murders of police officers in the U.S.

Altman said HAMAS urged its members to join forces with the Black Lives Matter campaign. Altman said while Black Lives Matter as a whole does not support this kind of violence, individuals like Johnson were influenced by HAMAS through social media.

Altman said not only do Facebook, Twitter and YouTube fail to block terrorist groups like HAMAS from using their sites, but they also profit from the group’s usage through advertisements. YouTube is owned by Google and operates as one of its subsidiaries.

The suit also accuses the social media networks of violating the Anti-terrorism Act of 1992 and the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. These acts condemn the aiding and abetting of foreign terrorist organizations who carry out acts of international terrorism.

“This has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” Altman said. “The Anti-terrorism Act says you can’t help terrorists, and if you help them, you can be held accountable.”

Altman is representing similar cases against social networks for victims of the 2015 Paris attack, the Barcelona terror attack, the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Bastille Day attack in Nice and the 2017 Istanbul nightclub attack.

In 2017, Dallas Police Sgt. Demetrick Pennie sued the tech giants on the same premise in California with Altman as his lawyer. The case was dismissed, but Altman said they decided to file Retana’s case as well because so many changes had been made to the suit.

The Pulse nightclub lawsuit was dismissed Jan. 2. Altman is appealing the case.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.