Emotions were already high as hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Dallas Thursday night, rallying against police shootings in Minnesota and across the country. Then gunshots erupted. Police officers were hit. Many died. A mayor choked back tears.
It was an unprecedented night in Dallas history.
By most counts, the march had largely ended. It was around 9 p.m., not completely dark. Wyatt Rosser, a marcher, described it as one of the most inspiring rallies he’d seen in Dallas.
“The speakers were great and everything was peaceful and beautiful until the end of the march,” he said. “I was near the front of the march. We were almost back to the starting point and linked in arms when I heard gunshots and scattered and ran in all directions.”
Rosser said everything then turned chaotic.
Lester John had just gotten off work.
“I heard one shot pop then pop-pop,” head. “Then I started hearing gun shots ringing off.”
Quinton Williams came to see his girlfriend who was marching.
“I just heard gunshots,” Williams said. “It had to be over a hundred. It had to be over a hundred.”
Kathleen Miller is Williams’ girlfriend.
“I heard lots of gunshots raining out, lots of gunshots,” she said. “Everybody running in every direction trying to find a safe place to be.”
For Miller, a night that had begun peacefully turned anything but: “It’s really no instant feeling but survival. That’s really it.”
At a news conference after midnight, while one gunman holed up in a downtown garage, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the suspect told negotiators “the end is coming, and he’s going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement. And there are bombs all over the place in this garage and in downtown.”
At that hour, four officers had died.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was at once calm, shocked, and close to tears.
“It is a heartbreaking morning to lose these four officers that proudly served our citizens,” Rawlings told reporters. “To say that our police officers put their life on the line every day is no hyperbole, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a reality.”
Rawlings said the city must come together, lock arms and heal the wounds we all feel.