Communities and police departments across the nation are in mourning after a protest against police violence in Dallas turned deadly on Thursday. Five Dallas police officers were killed and seven others were injured by sniper fire from (an) unknown assailant(s). The protest was sparked by recent national police shootings of two unarmed African-American men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.
Thursday was the single deadliest incident for United States law enforcement since September 11, 2001, The Washington Post reported.
In San Antonio, a city that has recently seen its own incidents of violence between police and African-Americans, the events in Dallas and other cities nationwide put many city leaders on alert.
“We are saddened by what appears to be a planned and coordinated attack targeting police officers in Dallas,” San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus stated in an email Friday. “Our hearts go out to the officers, their families, and the Dallas community who have been affected by this horrific attack. This tragedy hits close to home and we are monitoring the situation as it unfolds.”
On Saturday, there will be a vigil for Sterling at Travis Park, 301 E. Travis St. from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Attendees are invited to peacefully “unify, pray, take action” in honor of Sterling and others like him who have lost their lives. San Antonio has yet to have any such demonstration turn violent.
Mayor Ivy Taylor and SAPD Deputy Chief Anthony Treviño held a press conference at City Hall Friday morning, in which they urged the entire city – law enforcement and residents alike – to remain “engaged” and to unite during such trying times. They were joined by City Manager Sheryl Sculley, Fire Department Chief Charles Hood, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8), and Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4). McManus was unable to attend the conference as he is currently on vacation.
“We all know that our city, San Antonio, is a city with a deep heart, and today our heart aches for the victims and their families,” Taylor said. “I want to remind all of my fellow San Antonians that the way that we stay safe is by staying engaged. Through working together with law enforcement we can keep our neighborhoods safe and friendly. An engaged community is a safe community.”
SAPD will continue to build better relationships with all the communities it serves, Treviño said. Foot patrols in city neighborhoods will continue and officers will follow up on threats made to officers or residents. The department has not received any thus far, he added.
“These are challenging times right now in the law enforcement profession,” Treviño said, calling on San Antonians to do their part by reporting any suspicious activity to the police.
“We need to make sure that we work together as a community to help build a strong, safe, and unified community,” he said. “Law enforcement, City government, State government, federal government cannot do it alone. Every life matters and there should be no acceptable level of violence within our community.”
The police department has been working on mending relationships with the African-American and other minority communities for the past few years, Treviño said. Recent fatal shootings of unarmed African-American men like Antronie Scott, 36, by police have spurred demands from the community to indict officers and re-evaluate their policing methods.
SAPD has been examining “how we’re training our officers … and evaluating the way officers are using force to make sure that (they are using) the (most) minimal use of force necessary to accomplish the mission of the job and what we’re trying to do, which is ultimately trying to keep our community safe,” Treviño said.
Oliver Hill, president of the local NAACP chapter, told the Rivard Report that he is “devastated” by the Dallas attacks. The local and national African-American community has historically been “criminalized,” he said, which has led to a strained relationship between the African-American community and law enforcement. But, “I don’t think (violence) is the answer.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said. “You can’t say it’s going to be tit for tat – where does that get us? We’ll all be dead after a while.”
Instead, the police and the community should focus on “rebuilding their trust” with each other, Hill said. He thinks that could start with the indictment of police officers “who are in the wrong.
“There has to be trust, and there’s not going to be any trust until some indictments are alleged against those officers who are shooting people who are unarmed,” he said.
The recent shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota in which two African-American men were killed inspired what was intended to be a peaceful protest Thursday evening in Dallas. Recently released graphic videos of the two men’s deaths are said to have heightened the tension between police officers and protestors in Dallas and other cities where gatherings were held Thursday night. The Washington Post reported that shots were fired around 9 p.m., sending protestors and onlookers running in a frenzy to take cover.
One gunman was pronounced dead after a standoff between him and the police that lasted hours. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told The Washington Post that the gunman said he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Three potential suspects are in custody and police are still investigating who could have been involved in the attack.
To honor the fallen law enforcement officers killed in the attack, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all Texas flags lowered to half-staff starting Friday through sunset on Tuesday, July 12. He also will light the Governor’s Mansion blue for five nights, one night for each of the fallen officers.
“As Texans and Americans mourn the loss of our men and women in uniform, we must continue to remember that police officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure our safety and our freedoms,” Abbott stated in a press release. “Today, we honor those who selflessly placed themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow citizens.”
A number of other local, state-wide, and national leaders also have released statements honoring the victims and their families.
“We stand in solidarity with the peacemakers and those who risk their lives daily to ensure our safety. We collectively mourn as a country,” stated Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller. “The inexplicable violence we have experienced the past few days – from Dallas to Minnesota to Louisiana to Orlando – have sown seeds of mistrust and enmity between people and groups that threaten to tear the very fabric of our society apart.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) stated that it is more crucial now than ever to unite and rise above the senseless violence that has plagued our country.
“This has been a very painful week for our nation. Love and respect are vital to our country’s healing,” he stated. “Now is a time to come together, to talk to one another, and to pray for one another as we strive for understanding and peace.”
Treviño said he has faith that San Antonio will do just that, as it always does.
“That’s something that I think is truly unique about the city of San Antonio – how we rally together as a community,” he said. “(The incident) did happen in Dallas, but it touches us all.”
Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor stands with City staff members as she gives a statement in response to the violence that has spread across the nation. Photo by Scott Ball.