Honoring the fallen: Dallas shooting one year later

U.S. House of Representatives

One year ago, members of our community took to the streets of downtown Dallas to exercise their first amendment rights by speaking out and peacefully protesting against the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. What began as a peaceful evening on July 7, 2016, ended with a deliberate and barbarous attack on local law enforcement.

The calculated ambush and murder of the law enforcement officers in Dallas was a disgraceful act of violence. Yet in the face of such horrific adversity, these valiant officers did everything possible to prevent the further loss of life. They bravely charged into direct gunfire in an effort to protect the city and its people from the deranged assailant. Despite all the horrors of that evening, what I was able to witness and am proud of today is how police officers, citizens and the entire city of Dallas came together in the wake of such a devastating event.

In these moments of reflection, we need to remember that these brave members of the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Area Rapid Transit were not just officers. These brave men were also sons, fathers, brothers, friends and colleagues to many of us in Dallas. We must never forget to acknowledge the pain that their family, partners, friends, co-workers and fellow Dallas-ites endure on a daily basis since that tragic evening. But we must also never forget the victims’ names: DPD Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, DPD Officer Michael Krol, DPD Sgt. Michael Smith, DART Officer Brent Thompson, and DPD Officer Patricio “Patrick” Zamarripa.

• DPD Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens – Lorne Ahrens served DPD for 14 years. He worked for a time serving warrants, where a simple knock on the door could escalate into a life-threatening situation. Before moving to the Dallas area, Ahrens served in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for 11 years. For part of that time, he was a law enforcement technician, inputting and dispatching calls to the station, a demanding job that required fast thinking and professional calm.

• DPD Officer Michael Krol moved halfway across the country to Dallas in pursuit of his dream. After years of hard work and preparation, Officer Krol graduated from the Dallas Police Academy on April 25, 2008. He was a dedicated public servant who worked his way up from a position as a security guard for a Michigan hospital, to a Wayne County sheriff’s deputy, and ultimately a Dallas Police Department Officer.

• DPD Sgt. Michael Smith worked in the DPD for over 25 years and gained a reputation for doing thorough and dependable work. He was recognized multiple times throughout his career, most notably winning the distinguished honor of being called the “Cops’ Cop.” The only thing that outweighed his work ethic at the department was his easygoing and affable manner. Prior to joining the DPD, he served seven years as an Army Ranger, where he developed a strong sense of service and an unparalleled dedication to helping others. On Sundays, he acted as a uniformed guard at the Watermark Church in Farmers Branch.

• DART Officer Brent Thompson was the first officer to be killed in the line of duty since DART first formed a police department in 1989. He was hailed as a “great officer” and one who had served the DART PD admirably since joining in 2009. He was a former Marine who helped train and mentor local police in Afghanistan and Iraq.

• DPD Officer Patricio “Patrick” Zamarripa served three tours in Iraq as active duty for the U.S. Navy and then an additional five years of military service in the reserves before joining the DPD in 2011. He was the recipient of numerous awards for his years of service, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

Our response going forward, in Dallas and across our nation, will be more important now than ever before. Over the past year, I convened a Task Force on Citizen Review of Police charged with identifying the underlying issues throughout our community and to lay out proactive measures that we can take to remedy such problems. The task force was comprised of citizen groups, community activists, advocates and local law enforcement. It is crucial that we address any concerns and educate both law enforcement and members in the community on how to better engage with one another. One way to do so is by bringing interest groups to the same table for an open and honest dialogue.

It is with the help of the Assist the Officer Foundation, Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation and so many other groups and organizations that we have been able to move the conversation forward to help prevent future acts of violence.

U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.

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