- The attackers had intended widespread damage and a suspicious package has been secured by the city’s bomb squad
- NAACP President and CEO William Brooks told VOA the rights organization is pushing for the passage of several pieces of legislation
- There have been 509 fatal police shootings in the United States in 2016 compared to 990 in 2015
The Dallas police chief said early Friday morning, July 8, three suspects are in custody and police are negotiating with a fourth who is in a standoff with police at a downtown garage in the area where a demonstration held Thursday to protest the slayings of two black men by police erupted into chaos with 11 police officers shot. Four of the officers have died.
Police Chief David Brown said the suspect at the garage said “the end is coming” and that there are bombs “all over the place” in the garage and in downtown.
Brown said one of the detained suspects is a female. The other two suspects being interviewed, Brown said, were seen with camouflage bags, prompting officers to follow their car.
Officials say the attackers had intended widespread damage and a suspicious package has been secured by the city’s bomb squad.
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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has asked people who work in the downtown area where the shootings occurred to stay away Friday.
Police had issued a photograph of an armed black man in camouflage dress who attended the demonstration as “a person of interest” in Thursday’s shooting. The man later turned himself into authorities, who say he was apparently not involved in the shootings.
Police say two snipers opened fire on police during the demonstration that was being held to protest the police killings of two black men earlier this week in separate incidents – one in Minnesota, the other in Louisiana. The two killings of the black men are the latest incidents in a string of shootings in the U.S. of what is widely viewed as examples of the excessive use of force in police dealings with minorities.
The deadly violence came just hours after President Barack Obama urged American law enforcement to eliminate racial bias from its ranks, saying “all of us as Americans should be troubled” by the videotaped police shootings of black men this week in Minnesota and Louisiana.
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“We’ve seen tragedies like this too many times,” Obama said upon arriving in Warsaw Friday morning for a two-day meeting of NATO leaders. He said he felt compelled to address the shootings in a televised statement — in addition to a Facebook post published hours earlier — given the “extraordinary interest” in the incidents.
The president said all Americans should be concerned about the problem of frequent police shootings of black people, which he called “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist” in the U.S. justice system. He said those disparities are backed up by statistics that show African Americans and Hispanics are treated differently by police.
Earlier this week, an African American man was fatally shot by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in the midwestern city of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, prompting Governor Mark Dayton to call for an independent federal investigation.
Police say 32-year-old Philando Castile of nearby St. Paul was killed after a policeman pulled over his vehicle. They said the incident began when an officer initiated a traffic stop, but they have not further explained what led to the shooting. They said the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in cases like this.
Governor Dayton said he does not believe Castile would have been treated that way if he had been white.
The state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate.
A child and a woman were passengers in the car when Castile was killed. Shortly after the shots were fired, the woman began broadcasting video on her cell phone, streaming it live on her private Facebook account.
Castile was shown slumped in the car and bleeding profusely with at least one officer pointing a gun through the driver’s side window.
The shooting came one day after police killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in the southern city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Two white officers, responding to a call about an armed man, had Sterling pinned to the ground when at least one officer shot him. The investigation into the shooting is being led by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
NAACP President and CEO William Brooks told VOA the rights organization is pushing for the passage of several pieces of legislation, including comprehensive racial profiling laws at the state and federal levels.
“The laws that govern when police can use lethal force need to be reformed and they need to be reformed now,” said Amnesty International’s Jamira Burley. “Philando Castile should not have had to fear for his life during a traffic stop.”
Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska and an expert on police accountability, told VOA, “There’s deep-seated racial prejudice” among some white Americans “and that plays out in police encounters.” Walker said some police officers have “an unconscious bias” that causes them to “react accordingly.”
With the proliferation of video recording devices, Walker said the United States is in the midst of “a digital revolution of policing” that is having a “tremendous effect” on the practice nationwide.
Although fatal police shootings go unabated, videos have had a “huge impact on public understanding of policing,” he said.
There have been 509 fatal police shootings in the United States in 2016 compared to 990 last year, according to a national database maintained byThe Washington Post. (VOA)