The spontaneous decision of Black Lives Matter protesters to begin marching through the Dallas streets, combined with Texas’ open-carry gun laws, created a chaotic situation Thursday night as a gunman opened fire on police officers, the city’s police chief said Sunday in a wide-ranging interview that offered new insights into the horrific massacre.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the protest, organized in response to the killing of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, originally was planned as “static event,” but demonstrators made a spur-of-the-moment decision to begin marching.
That put officers in harm’s way when the shooter, 25-year-old Army veteran Micah Johnson, opened fire from his perch.
“The vulnerability of the officers, because it was such a spontaneous decision to march by the protesters, we had to leapfrog intersections to make sure they didn’t get run over by vehicles, by traffic, because we were not planning to block any streets,” Chief Brown told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We had to scramble to block intersections, which did expose our officers to attack. This suspect took advantage of that.”
At the same time, Chief Brown said, more than 20 demonstrators showed up to the protest openly carrying AR-15 assault rifles and wearing gas masks, camouflage fatigues and bullet-proof vests
“Doesn’t make sense to us, but that’s their right in Texas,” Chief Brown said. “They marched, but when the shooting started, they began to run at street level across where the shooting was occurring. So to our officers, they were suspects. And I support that belief.”
Three of those demonstrators were taken into custody, the chief said. Two were released after investigators determined they had nothing to do with the shooting and had no connection to Johnson.
The other was charged with illegally carrying his weapon, Chief Brown said.
“From our vantage point, with people carrying guns at protests slung across, wearing bullet-proof vests and gas masks while people are killing us, they are suspects until we rule them out,” he told CNN.