Dallas vigil: thousands gather in tribute to five police officers killed at protest

Police from the neighboring city kept watch Monday while Dallas officers, citizens, friends and families paid tribute to those killed in a gathering at city hall

The citizens of Dallas turned out in the thousands on Monday night to pay tribute to the five police officers killed last Thursday during a protest march.

The police had invited the public to a candlelight vigil outside city hall, and the memorial offered residents a glimpse of police in rare form: open, personal, emotional.

At sunset, rows of officers stood and saluted the families of the deceased as they entered the plaza outside city hall. The family members were many; the attack during a protest against the deaths of African American men in confrontations with police officers marked the worst mass shooting of police in more than three decades. Five officers died and nine were wounded in the shooting.

The departments top commanders spoke, but the vigil was designed as a chance for Dallas itself to offer condolences. A bank of television cameras was kept to the side of the plaza so members of the public, who stood for the hour-long service, could have an unobstructed view of the podium.

Police from the neighboring city of Arlington provided security so officers from the Dallas police department and area transit police department could mourn their colleagues.

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A Dallas police officer picks up balloons and flowers in front of images of the five officers killed. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Chaplain Sean Pease opened the service by reading a section of scripture from 1 Corinthians normally reserved for weddings. It took on a new significance in the context of violent confrontations between police and protesters:

Love is patient, love is kind … it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, he said. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas police association, read each of the mens names as an honor guard brought forward large photographs of them.

Family members put their arms around each other, and wept quietly into handkerchiefs.

To the families, Pinkston said with a halting voice, we want you to know we will always be there for you.

The crowd had remained silent throughout the service, but when police chief David Brown stepped to the podium, the audience erupted in cheers and applause.

Before Thursdays attack, Brown was known for transforming a troubled police force into a model of transparency and forthrightness. Since the shooting he has won acclaim for maintaining that stance; at a news conference Monday morning Brown appeared stoic and straight-backed, but confessed he was running on fumes. His feelings, he said, were raw.

At the vigil he began his address by recalling how, as a boy, he would sprint home to hear the opening lines of the Superman television show. His obsession led him to work among real-life heroes, he told the crowd.

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Dallas police chief David Brown speaks at the candlelight vigil. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Then Brown looked down at the assembled families of the dead officers, and spoke directly to them.

We have an example of how to conquer this tragedy, he said. When the good Lord was crucified and arose again on the third day, alive, he said, O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?

He lowered his voice further. Well not only be loving you today. Well be loving you always.

Then he addressed the crowd again.

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he said, quoting the old Superman lines. Look, its a train. Its a plane. No its Patricio Zamarripa. Look its Brent Thompson. Its Michael Krol. Its Lorne Ahrens. Its Michael Smith.

A friend or partner stood for each of the victims, and offered the sort of small, human details that seem difficult to remember in a time when police regularly distance themselves from the public with military-grade armor and equipment.

The crowd learned that during quiet moments Smith liked to make little paper frogs for his daughter.

Zamarripa was a huge fan of Texas Rangers baseball.

Krol loved to play pool.

Thompson, who worked for the citys transit police department, was a former marine.

Ahrens was such a big man his partner wondered whether he could fit in a squad car but he was fast on his feet.

The crowd lit candles and held them up as bagpipes played, and kept them aloft as the families filed out.

Once the ceremony was over, people seemed reluctant to leave the plaza, mingling and talking, taking pictures with the officers oversized photographs, meeting officers who were injured during Thursdays attack.

Outside the police headquarters downtown there were two police cars parked on the street, but they were invisible; passersby had buried them in flowers.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/12/dallas-vigil-five-police-officers-killed