In a “Weekend of Honor,” the City of Dallas will reflect on the first anniversary of the tragic police ambush that left five officers dead last summer.
On July 7-9, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) plans to commemorate their fallen officers and thank the public for “Backing the Blue” in unprecedented outpourings of support during the somber days and months that followed the horrific attack.
“The purpose of the Weekend of Honor is to unify the community, to unify the officers, to give back and say thank you,” said Dallas Detective Christine Smith, one of the event organizers.
Last month, DPD announced they would hold the bittersweet weekend to “gather in remembrance of the tragedy” which happened on July 7, 2016, when lone gunman Micah X. Johnson targeted Dallas police at an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Johnson killed DPD Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens, Sgt. Michael Krol, Officer Michael Smith, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer Brent Thompson. Nine other officers and two civilians were injured. Later, Johnson barricaded himself in a parking garage. In an unprecedented decision to neutralize the uncooperative assailant, former DPD Chief David Brown used a bomb robot to kill Johnson.
Subsequently, the nation watched as Dallas mourned its slain officers, and held candlelight vigils and a memorial service attended by then President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, Texas U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Brown, and other dignitaries.
The Weekend of Honor opens with “Tribute 7/7” on the evening of July 7 in a commemorative walk and blue light ceremony at Dallas City Hall Plaza. Admission is free but all planning to attend must register in advance on the webpage.
“The Value of a Life Festival follows on Saturday morning with the Run for the Blue Dallas, Officer Down Historic Motorcycle Ride, and a human unity chain that seeks to break the existing Guinness world record. Then, on Sunday, the 2017 President’s Lifetime Achievement Ceremony and Reception honors police officers killed in the line of duty in Texas and across the United States. This presentation also salutes innovative officers and civilian volunteers. All Weekend of Honor event information is online.
The year has been a tough one for Dallas police. Roughly two months after the sniper attack, the police chief announced his retirement. Between October and December, the department, which already faced morale and recruitment problems, lost 99 officers who either quit or retired. After months of concerns over DPD pension insolvency, the Texas Legislature stepped in with a retirement system fix for the city’s police and firefighters, HB 3158, which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on May 31.
Last week, Cruz and Cornyn introduced a U.S. Senate resolution to honor the victims and survivors of the 2016 Dallas police ambush, calling the heinous act “the deadliest attack on United States law enforcement officers since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”
The resolution, which “expresses the belief of the Senate that an attack on a law enforcement officer is an affront to the rule of law, the promise of justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and the blessings of liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States.” It “applauds the bravery and dedication exhibited by the hundreds of Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials, emergency medical responders, and others who offered support and assistance during and after the attack;” and pledges to unite “against violence and hatred, and in support of the brave and honorable police officers across the United States who work every day to keep the United States safe.”
In June, Abbott signed into law the Texas “Police Protection Act” (HB 2908) making it a hate crime to kill police officers. It goes into effect on September 1 and increases criminal penalties and punishment for an offense “committed against a person because of bias or prejudice on the basis of status as a peace officer or judge.”