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5 officers dead after ‘sniper’ shooting at Dallas protest, 3 in custody

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Posted at 10:49 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 06:32:15-04

DALLAS — Snipers targeted police officers in Dallas, killing four, during protests against the fatal shootings of two African-American men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Dallas police said a total of 11 officers and 1 civilian were shot during the protests, including the six officers shot dead.

President Barack Obama spoke from Poland on Friday called the shootings of police officers in Dallas “a vicious, despicable and calculated attack on law enforcement.”

President Obama conveyed condolences to Dallas’ mayor, and indicated the FBI was involved in investigating the shootings.

“There’s no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any attack on law enforcement,” Obama said. “Anybody involved will be held accountable.”

Here’s what we know:

— A total of 10 police officers were shot during the protests, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said. An 11th was shot during an exchange of gunfire with one of the suspects, authorities said.

— Brown said it’s unclear how many suspects were involved, adding that police had cornered one suspect in a commercial garage.

— Police have three suspects in custody, Brown said.

— A standoff in a parking garage reportedly ended with a fourth suspect fatally shooting himself

— One suspect told negotiators more officers are going to be hurt, and added that there are bombs placed in downtown Dallas.

— Two of the shooters were snipers, who shot from an “elevated position” and fired on officers “ambush-style,” he said.

— Officers killed included one DART officer and two Dallas police officers. DART, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit agency, operates buses and commuter rail in the city and surrounding suburbs.

— The Dallas Police Department circulated a photo of a man they said was a suspect in the shooting, but later called him a person of interest and said he turned himself in.

— Witness Ismael Dejesus said he filmed the shooter from his hotel balcony about 50 yards away. He described the gunman as wearing tactical pants and tactical shirt. He had a weapon with a “pretty big magazine,” he said.

— “He got out of there, walked over to the pillar, put a magazine in and started firing,” he said. “It did look planned. He knew where to stand, he had ammo ready.”

‘Everyone was screaming’

The shooting happened as protests were underway about two blocks from Dealey Plaza. Video showed the crowd suddenly sprinting away.

CNN affiliate KTVT reported that two Dallas officers were shot. CNN could not immediately confirm that information and it’s not clear if they were referring to the DART officers.

Witness Clarissa Myles said she was eating at McDonalds when the chaos began.

“Everyone was screaming, people were running,” she said. “I saw at least probably 30 shots go off.”

“I was walking next to the officer who was helping with the protest, all of a sudden I saw six to eight shots,” one witness told the station. “It looked like two officers went down.”

Another witness who was at the protest told the station he heard multiple gunshots.

“Whoever was shooting had an assault rifle — and I know guns. The shots were in rapid succession,” the witness said.

Video showed numerous police officers crouching behind vehicles. Others approached a location holding protective shields.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dallas law enforcement community and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officers killed and injured this evening,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement following the shooting. “In times like this we must remember — and emphasize — the importance of uniting as Americans.”

Peaceful protest shattered

Witnesses said the protesters were marching peacefully when gunshots rang out. Crowds suddenly scattered in all directions.

“In the midst of it, gunshots just started barreling out,” witness Michael Jackson told CNN’s Don Lemon. “I immediately started running the opposite way.”

G.J. McCarthy said at first he thought it was fireworks. Then it got louder, and protesters realized it was gunfire.

“That went on for a while,” he said. Crowds ran into a parking garage, then spilled out after word spread that there was a sniper nearby.

Clarissa Myles said she was eating at a McDonald’s nearby when peaceful protests suddenly turned chaotic.

“Everyone was screaming, people were running,” she said. “I saw at least probably 30 shots go off.”

Police officers crouched behind vehicles while others approached the scene holding protective shields.

Officers have cleared the streets and are going around parking garages, looking for the shooter, Ben Ferguson, who lives in Dallas, told Lemon.

All rail and bus services have been suspended.

Two killings in two days

The shootings occurred as Americans nationwide took to the streets to demand answers over the killings of two black men in two days. They wept, marched and chanted “Black Lives Matter.”

Crowds gathered outside Gov. Mark Dayton’s residence in St. Paul, Minnesota, miles from the spot where an officer killed Philando Castile in a car on Wednesday.

Hundreds of miles away, more protesters marched outside the convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Alton Sterling was fatally shot while police tackled him in a parking lot Tuesday.

They vented their rage at yet more killings of black men at the hands of police officers.

“We are targets!” LaRhonda Talley said in an impassioned speech in Minnesota about the danger of being black in America. “We made it across the (Atlantic). We made it to freedom and you’re still killing us. You’re still hanging us from trees. You’re still killing us! Our lives matter!”

Minnesota shooting

As has become the horrible norm, both killings were captured on video and posted online, spreading the outrage across the country at lightning speed.

In Minnesota, the shooting of Castile was remarkable — and heartbreaking — because it was live-streamed by his fiancee.

As their 4-year-old sat in the backseat, she calmly narrated the action and showed viewers the dying man groaning and bleeding in the front seat.

Castile, a school food services worker, was shot in Falcon Heights, outside Minneapolis, when a police officer pulled him over because of a broken taillight, said his fiancee, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car with him.

“He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” Reynolds said as she broadcast the Wednesday evening shooting on Facebook.

“Oh God, please don’t tell me my boyfriend is dead,” she says later.

In interviews throughout the day, Reynolds complained that other officers responding to the scene were more concerned about the officer who fired the shots than Castile.

Baton Rouge shooting

Sterling, 37, was killed Tuesday outside the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, where he regularly sold CDs and DVDs, earning the nickname “The CD man.”

A source close to the investigation told CNN that problems started when a homeless man approached Sterling on Tuesday and asked for money, becoming so persistent that Sterling showed him his gun, the source said.

“I told you to leave me alone,” Sterling told the man, according to the source.

The homeless man called 911 and police arrived at the store. Sterling was tackled and taken to the ground, the video shows, and during the scuffle he was shot several times by police.

A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that the officers pulled a gun from Sterling’s body at the scene. No further details were provided on the type of firearm.

The convenience store quickly became the site of protests. Flowers and signs piled up in a makeshift memorial. Protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” the line made famous in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, about two years ago.

A prayer vigil was held at a church. A minister urged anybody who carried a weapon to take it out of the sanctuary and store it in their car.

In New York, about 1,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue toward Union Square chanting “Black lives matter!”

They didn’t have a permit, but police said they would allow the march to continue as long as it remained peaceful.

Tributes to slain men

As outrage grew over the shootings, various people paid tribute to the shootings. Democrats came out as a group onto the steps of Congress to show their support for the victims.

President Obama talked about the shootings, saying “This is not just a black issue.”

Pop star Beyoncé posted a message on her website, urging action.

“It is up to us to take a stand and demand that they ‘stop killing us,'” she said with a link for fans to contact their lawmakers.

Virtually every major city reported a gathering of some sort. Little violence was reported, but many tears were shed.

Stay with CBS 6 for the latest on this developing story.