Calling the Dallas slaying of five police officers and the wounding of seven others a “hate crime,” President Barack Obama expressed his support for police this week and admonished those who would seek to do them harm.
“I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events, and that we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas … Let’s be clear: There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.”
According to media reports, 25-year old Micah Xavier Johnson was the lone gunman who opened fire on police during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas on July 7. The protest-one of several across the country-was in response to the recent shootings of Black men by police in Baton Rouge, LA, and Falcon Heights, MN.
Cell phone video recorded by an anti-violence group captured Alton Sterling selling CDs in front of a Baton Rouge convenience store when he was tackled by a police officer. Although subdued and on the ground, police shot him point blank in the chest. Police were responding to a 911 call of man with a gun. A gun was found in Sterling’s right front pants pocket after he was shot.
Philando Castile, a cafeteria supervisor in St. Paul, was pulled over allegedly for a broken tail light. Informing the officer that he had a weapon on his person along with a Concealed Carry Permit, Castile was shot by an officer four times as his 4-year old daughter and partner Lavish Reynolds watched in horror. Reynolds had the presence of mind to live-stream the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. The image of Castile, slumped toward the back seat with a bloody t-shirt, is a haunting one.
Protests in response to the murders sprang up in cities across the country. Chicago, Atlanta and Oakland saw important thoroughfares completely shut down, snarling traffic for hours. Media reports also cited demonstrations in London, Amsterdam, Berlin and South Africa.
Not surprisingly, blame for the Dallas shootings has been leveled at the Black Lives Matter national network which has led the charge for greater accountability from police agencies. Birthed in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, the network released a statement via its website clarifying that while it was against the violence that occurred in Dallas, it would not abandon its efforts toward police accountability.
“There are some who would use these events [in Dallas] to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans. We should reject all of this.”
“Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it. [The July 7th] attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.”
Johnson, the man identified as the Dallas gunman, was a product of the United States Armed Forces. A private first class in the Army Reserves from March of 2009 until April of 2015, he was deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013. While he did not see combat he served as a carpentry and masonry specialist. Prior to that Johnson was enlisted in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in his Mesquite (TX) high school.
Police, who used a robot carrying an explosive to neutralize, Johnson say that during the shootings Johnson was wearing a Kevlar vest. A search of Johnson’s home after the shooting found a cache of weapons and a journal filled with writings on “shoot and move” and other tactics. Johnson also attended a Texas martial arts academy frequented by police officers.
Attempts to understand Johnson’s behavior have turned toward Black nationalists and afro-centric groups, both online and in the Dallas area. Various local groups have stated that they were familiar with Johnson, who would sometimes attend events, but disavowed any membership ties with him.
Perhaps these attempts are looking in the wrong direction. Johnson’s attendance at local Black nationalist and afro-centric meetings dates back to his discharge from the military in April of 2015; just over one year. Johnson spent considerably more time in the United States military than he did in any groups. He was trained by the United States military and quite possibly even received the weaponry used in the attack on the Dallas police from the United States military.