Just when it seemed like there couldn't possibly be any more horrific headlines this week about shootings involving police, five officers were shot and killed by snipers Thursday night while a rally marched through downtown Dallas, protesting against the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Was the Dallas shooting terrorism? The motives of the shooters are still unclear, although, according to CNN, there do not currently appear to be any links between the shooters and international terrorist groups.
Update: One of the snipers has been identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, a former Army Reservist who served in Afghanistan, according to ABC News. He was reportedly killed by police when they detonated a bomb.
As the Dallas protest was nearing an end, witnesses told CNN that they started hearing shots ringing out and began running. According to ABC News, at least two snipers began shooting "ambush-style," targeting 11 officers in total. One of the suspects was engaged in an hours-long stand-off with police at the El Centro college parking garage, according to CNN, and at one point told the officers "the end is coming," and that "there are bombs all over the place in the garage and downtown," Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters. The stand-off ended at approximately 3:30 a.m., after the suspect was killed, and two subsequent sweeps of the area failed to turn up any explosives. Three other suspects are currently in police custody, according to The Telegraph.
While the identities of the snipers have not yet been identified, Police Chief Brown told reporters that "the ambush appeared carefully planned and executed," according to The Telegraph. Of the suspects currently in police custody, one of them is said to be a woman who was also in the parking garage, while the other two suspects were apprehended during a traffic stop, after one man threw a camouflaged bag into a Mercedes and sped away. But a lot is still unknown about the suspects, including how many were actually involved, and Brown told reporters early Friday that the Dallas police weren't yet sure if all of the suspects have been located.
President Obama condemned the attacks Friday, according to USA Today, and called the shootings "a vicious, calculated, and despicable attack on law enforcement."
According to multiple reports, the suspects currently in custody are remaining largely tight-lipped about their motives. But despite the lack of confirmed information about who is behind the attack and why, the Dallas shooting certainly seems to fit the definition of a terrorist attack. Police Chief Brown has said that the suspects "triangulated" their positions and organized their ambush with knowledge of the protest route, according to USA Today, while witnesses told The Telegraph that the shooters appeared to be "organized and strategic" about their attack.
According to CNN, the sniper attack in Dallas has become the deadliest attack on law enforcement in the United States since 9/11. Given that the area is still an active crime scene, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has advised that people steer clear of the downtown area as much as possible Friday, and said, according to The Daily Mail, "Our worst nightmare has happened. It is a heartbreaking moment for the city of Dallas."
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer Brent Thompson, 43, was the first of the five slain officers to be identified Friday, according to NBC News. Thompson had been on the force for seven years, and had recently been married. A statement on the DART website read,
As you can imagine, our hearts are broken. This is something that touches every part of our organization. We have received countless expressions of support and sympathy from around the world through the evening. We are grateful for every message. Thank you.
In addition to the officers targeted by the shooters, two civilians were also injured in the attack, according to NBC News.