Downtown Dallas was in lockdown early Friday after snipers shot 11 officers, five fatally, during a protest over deadly police shootings of black men elsewhere. Three people were in custody and a fourth suspect exchanged gunfire with authorities in a parking garage at El Centro Community College into the morning, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said. NBC Dallas Fort-Worth reported the fourth suspect had been "neutralized" at around 2:45 a.m. (3:45 ET). Earlier, he had told police negotiators that "the end is coming" and that "there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown," Brown said.
It was already a tragic week in the United States, with the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota in police shootings. These tragedies prompted a series of protests in communities nationwide last night, nearly all of which were held peacefully and without incident.
In Dallas, however, terror struck. NBC News reported:
As is always the case after a tragedy of this scale, many of the details are still coming together, but reports indicate that multiple snipers targeted law enforcement last night during a peaceful protest. This morning, extensive sweeps of the downtown area are still underway. [Update: As Friday progressed, local accounts now suggest only one gunman may have been responsible for the slayings.]
While the casualty count may yet change, this was the deadliest attack on American law enforcement since 9/11.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said, "Our worst nightmare happened."
President Obama, in Poland for a NATO conference, spoke to Rawlings directly this morning, and condemned the "vicious, callous and despicable attack."
The president went on to tell reporters, "There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement. Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done." Referring to law enforcement officials, Obama added, "Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices they make for us.... When people say 'black lives matter,' it doesn't mean that blue lives don't matter."
There will plenty of discussion going forward as we learn more about last night's murders and what can be done to prevent future violence, but there are some early indications that some intend to take the debate in an ugly direction.
Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, wrote via social media last night in response to the Dallas slayings, "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you."
Perhaps realizing that these are the kind of remarks that invite a visit by the Secret Service, the former GOP lawmaker deleted the message soon after, but added a related comment, insisting the president's rhetoric is responsible for the murders of police officers.
I suspect most reasonable observers will agree comments like these are as irresponsible as they are insane, and we can hope that the broader discussion goes in a more sensible direction.