Talented speaker, grandfather among Dallas sniper victims
They were family men and veterans who volunteered in schools and at church.
They swore to serve and protect, and the five officers killed in last week’s sniper attack in Dallas are being remembered for their character, service to others and dedication to their loved ones.
The attack also injured at least nine officers and two civilians. Here’s a closer look at those who were hurt or killed:
COMPASSIONATE NAVY VETERAN
Patrick Zamarripa had an urge to serve — first in the Navy, where his family said he did three tours in Iraq, then back home in Texas as a Dallas police officer.
“He went over there (to Iraq) and didn’t get hurt at all, and he comes back to the states and gets killed,” his father, Rick Zamarripa, told The Associated Press by phone Friday.
The elder Zamarripa described his son as hugely compassionate.
“Patrick would bend over backward to help anybody,” Rick Zamarripa said.
Patrick Zamarripa, who would have turned 33 next month, was married with a 2-year-old daughter and 10-year-old stepson. He joined the Navy shortly after high school in Fort Worth, serving eight years on active duty and then in the reserves, according to the Navy.
Zamarripa returned to Texas in 2009. He joined the Dallas force about five years ago and recently was assigned to downtown bicycle patrols, his father said.
NEWLYWED STARTING SECOND FAMILY
Brent Thompson, 43, was an officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit authority for the past seven years. There he found love, marrying another transit officer within the past two weeks, DART Chief James Spiller said.
He is the first DART officer killed in the line of duty since the agency’s police force was founded in 1989, spokesman Morgan Lyons said.
Thompson had six grown children from a previous marriage and recently welcomed his third grandchild, according to Tara Thornton, a close friend of Thompson’s 22-year-old daughter, Lizzie.
Thompson and his close-knit family often got together and had classic rock singalongs, with Thornton and his son, Jake, playing guitar, Thornton said. He lived an hour’s drive south of Dallas, in Corsicana.
“He loved being a police officer,” Thornton said. “He instantly knew that’s what he wanted to do. He knew he wanted to save lives and protect people.”
Before joining the DART force, Thompson worked from 2004 to 2008 for private military contractor DynCorp International. According to Thompson’s LinkedIn page, he served as an international police liaison officer, helping teach and mentor Iraqi police.
A COPS’ COP
Michael Smith, 55, once received a “Cops’ Cop” award from the Dallas Police Association.
The police sergeant’s positive attitude impressed those around him.
The pastor of a church where Smith worked security remembered him as professional and compassionate.
“It genuinely troubled him when he saw people treated as objects or when protocol got in the way of personal care,” Pastor Todd Wagner of Watermark Community Church in Dallas said in a statement.
Father Michael Forge, pastor at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, notified parishioners of Smith’s death in an email. Smith, his wife, Heidi, and their two daughters were part of the parish in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas.
“I’m asking all of us to pull together in prayer and support for the Smith family, as well as the other officers’ families,” Forge wrote.
Smith was a U.S. Army Ranger before joining the Dallas Police Department in 1989. He volunteered at his church and the YMCA, according to a 2009 article in the Dallas Police Association’s newsletter.
The article described him as conscientious, noting he often attended advanced training on his own dime.
BIG MAN, BIG HEART
There was a lot of Lorne Ahrens to love.
His size — 6-foot-5, 300 pounds —could intimidate, but his character was kindness.
The day before Ahrens, 48, was killed, he bought a homeless man dinner and encouraged fellow officers to greet the man, Jorge Barrientos, another Dallas police officer who was wounded, told the Dallas Morning News.
Ahrens volunteered, in uniform, at the school his 8-year-old and 10-year-old attended, said his mother-in-law, Karen Buckingham.
He was married to the law — his wife, Detective Katrina Ahrens, also worked on the Dallas force.
On Thursday night, Buckingham and her husband stayed with their grandchildren while Katrina Ahrens rushed to the hospital.
Lorne Ahrens was already out of surgery when Katrina Ahrens arrived, her father, Charlie Buckingham, told the Washington Post. Then something went wrong. Doctors had to take him back in, and he died, Charlie Buckingham said.
The former semi-pro football player rose from dispatcher at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to become a senior corporal on the Dallas police force.
“Lorne was a big guy with an even bigger heart,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Merrill Ladenheim said in a department Facebook post.
NEVER SHIED FROM DUTY
Michael Krol, 40, was a caring person who always wanted to help others, his mother said.
“He knew the danger of the job, but he never shied away from his duty,” Susan Ehlke of Redford, Michigan, said in a statement the day after her son was killed.
Krol’s family said he moved to Dallas to become a police officer in 2007 because Detroit wasn’t hiring. He had worked security at a local hospital, then was a deputy at the Wayne County jail. He graduated from the Dallas Police Academy in 2008.
Family members told the Detroit Free Press that Krol was single with no children but had a girlfriend in Dallas. He texted her the night of the protest saying everything was going peacefully.
“He was a guy that was serving others,” said Brian Schoenbaechler, Krol’s brother-in-law. “And he gave his life in service of others.”
A PRIVATE MAN AND TALENTED PUBLIC SPEAKER
Giovanni Wells, the only black officer injured in the attack, joined the Dallas police force in 2007 after a 20-year tour of duty in the Army.
Since then, he has developed a reputation as a skillful public speaker while working as a police department recruiter, said David Davis, first vice president of the Black Police Association’s Dallas chapter.
But Davis said Monday that Wells is an intensely private man who did not want his photo publicized and was granting no interviews.
“He is just being inundated with phone calls, and he is deleting them as they go,” Davis said. “He has no social media.”
Wells grew up in the New York City area, is in a long-term relationship with another Dallas officer, and the two are the parents of a small boy. Both are sergeants, and Wells was doing his regular evening shift when he reported to the protest scene.
A single bullet grazed Wells’ stomach and he was released from a hospital Saturday, Davis said.
Wells’ girlfriend told Davis he is recovering well and “left home yesterday to hang out with some friends and clear his mind.” Davis also requested counseling from the chapter.
Neither Wells nor his girlfriend had anything to say about him being the only black officer hit by gunfire, Davis said.
“It could have been random,” or it’s possible that Micah Xavier Johnson lied to officers when he said he wanted to kill whites, especially white officers, Davis said.
“We’ll never know,” he said, noting two civilian victims were black.
‘WE NEED TO LOVE EACH OTHER’
Wounded by a bullet and shrapnel, Officer Jorge Barrientos is most concerned with the healing of his Dallas police force and the community at large.
“Whether it’s law enforcement, lawyers, teachers, at the end of the day, we’re all humans,” Barrientos told the Dallas Morning News. “We need to love each other and stop the hate.”
Barrientos, 28, has been on the force for four years. Barrientos, who was shot in the hand and hit in the chest by shrapnel, was released from the hospital Friday.
He told The Associated Press on Sunday that he never saw the gunman, just heard a single gunshot as he and his colleagues were finishing directing traffic away from protesters.
The shot hit Officer Michael Krol, who stood a few feet away from Barrientos. Then the bullets began to fly.
Barrientos dropped to the ground, trying to make his way toward Krol and to get cover. Not far away, two other officers lay shot and bleeding.
What followed were long, desperate moments to try and save his fellow officers from dying. Ultimately, three died, including Krol.
“I don’t know how I made it out alive,” Barrientos said Sunday as he recovered at home.
INJURED DART OFFICER RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Elmar Cannon was released from the hospital Saturday after being treated for unspecified injuries.
The 44-year-old joined the force in 2009, the transit agency said. It provided no further details. Attempts to reach Cannon have been unsuccessful.
READY TO RETURN TO WORK
From her hospital room, DART Officer Misty McBride told loved ones the day after she was struck by gunfire that she just wanted to return to work.
“She’s ready to get back out there,” her friend Wendy Carson said Friday after visiting the officer and her family. “She’s a very, very strong woman.”
DART says McBride was discharged from the hospital Saturday evening.
McBride, an officer and mother of a 10-year-old girl, was struck by bullets in her abdomen and arm, her father said.
“I’m just glad that she’s alive, really,” her daughter, Hunter, told reporters outside the hospital. “I said that ‘I love you’ and that ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ ”
Carson described McBride as a dedicated officer who often speaks with excitement about learning new policing skills.
“She is always willing to protect and serve, even off duty,” Carson said.
SHOT PROTECTING SON
Shetamia Taylor, who was wounded when she threw herself over her son during the attack at the protest, said she would attend another demonstration to show her boys she’s not a quitter.
Taylor, an Amazon employee, attended the march with her four sons — ages 12, 13, 15 and 17.
Speaking Sunday from a Dallas hospital, she thanked police for protecting her in the chaos that erupted Thursday. She said officers shielded her as bullets whizzed through the air around them.
“I never had an issue with police officers,” she said. “If anything, it made my admiration for them greater.”
Taylor, who is black, said she went to the march to protest the killings of black men by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, outside St. Paul, Minnesota, and elsewhere.
Taylor said she and her sons were getting ready to leave when they heard two shots and saw an officer fall. “As he was going down, he said, ‘He has a gun. Run,’” she recalled.
As they fled, she felt a bullet hit her in the back of the leg. She said she tackled her 15-year-old son and “laid on top of him.”
An officer then jumped on top of them. “And there was another one at our feet. And there was another one over our heads. And there were several of them lined against the wall,” she said. “And they stayed there with us. And I saw another officer get shot right in front of me.”
Two of her other sons escaped through a parking garage, while the fourth fled with another woman he didn’t know.
Taylor suffered a fracture of her tibia just below her right knee, one of her doctors said.
GAY OFFICER PUSHED FOR CHANGE
When his marriage wasn’t legally recognized, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Jesus Retana helped change the way DART treats same-sex partners of its employees.
Retana, 39, joined the agency’s force in April 2006. He and his husband, Andrew Moss, worked with a gay rights group called the Resource Center to win benefits for same-sex partners of DART employees.
Moss lobbied for the benefits after an illness made him too sick to work and the Resource Center took up the fight, the Dallas Morning News reported in 2012.
Moss told the newspaper Retana is open about his relationship at work, and his colleagues support him.
Resource Center communications manager Rafael McDonnell called Retana a friend and said he was recovering after leaving the hospital, where he received treatment for unspecified injuries.
RECOVERING OFFICER RELFECTS ON TENSIONS
Ivan Saldana was among the Dallas police officers directing traffic downtown during the protest when the shots rang out.
By Saturday, he was up and walking around his home, recovering from a shrapnel wound to his leg.
“Everything happened so quickly, but at the same time, everything was so slow,” Saldana, 44, told The Dallas Morning News.
During a pause in the bullets, Saldana realized he couldn’t find Officer Gretchen Rocha, a rookie he was assigned to look after. It turned out she was rushing another officer to the hospital, even after she herself was wounded. Saldana says Rocha did a good job.
A 15-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, Saldana has felt the simmering tension between police and civilians for a while.
He said these are difficult times to be an officer, but white officers in particular have a target on their backs. Saldana has watched the news reports of officer-involved shootings around the country and said those who apply race as a motive don’t understand the challenges police face in the moments before firing.
Saldana began his police career with the Guaynabo Police Department in Puerto Rico, where he is from. He told the newspaper: “America is the only place where they call black people African-American. In Puerto Rico, you can be black or white, and it doesn’t matter. You’re Puerto Rican.”
“I hope it gets better, but it feels like it’s going to get worse,” he said.
RURAL KID TO BIG CITY OFFICER
Gretchen Rocha came to the Dallas police force by way of the farm.
Rocha grew up just outside Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, where she was home-schooled and loved riding the family’s horses, said her mother, Diane Bayer. Becoming a police officer or soldier was her dream, Bayer said, and Rocha attended a police academy at Madison Area Technical College.
Classmates called her “Mama Rocha,” and she won an award for unifying the class, said her sister, Katrina Schwartz.
The 23-year-old was wounded by shrapnel, but the family did not have details on the extent of her injuries.
Rocha used her Spanish language skills during an internship with the Madison Police Department in 2013, spokesman Joel DeSpain said, helping with a program called Amigos en Azul (Friends in Blue).
“She was a very competent and poised young woman,” DeSpain said.
Rocha joined the Dallas Police Department in 2014 after she couldn’t find any jobs in Wisconsin, Schwartz said. Rocha’s husband’s family is from Houston.
Schwartz said she asked her sister if she still wants to be an officer.
“The way she put it is, ‘I’m still in this,’” Schwartz said. “She’s so tough.”
SHOT BUT STAYED AT HIS POST
Detective Cpl. Bryan Shaw of the El Centro Community College police force heard gunfire while on patrol inside a college building and was about to head outside when more shots shattered its glass door.
One bullet grazed his abdomen, but he still took a position with other officers facing down the gunman, college Police Chief Joseph Hannigan said.
“At one point, he reached under his vest and came out with a handful of blood,” Hannigan told reporters Monday. “So he realized he was injured but did not leave his post. He stayed there the entire night until the incident was under control.”
Shaw was treated by hours after the shooting started. He is resting at home but will have surgery later this week, Hannigan said.
TRAINED NAVY MEDIC TRIED TO SAVE OFFICER WHO DIED
Officer John Abbott, also of the El Centro Community College police force, was with his colleague Cpl. Bryan Shaw when shots shattered a glass door, and shards were sent flying into both of his legs, the college said.
Abbott is also a trained U.S. Navy medic and tried to help Brent Thompson, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer killed in the shooting.
Abbott treated his own injuries and went back to work. He is also recovering at home, the college said.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles; Jamie Stengle, Emily Schmall and Christine Armario in Dallas; Phuong Le in Seattle; Denise Lavoie in Boston; Jennifer Peltz in New York; Kimberlee Kruesi in Boise, Idaho; Todd Richmond in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin; Samantha Shotzbarger, Alina Hartounian and Alan Clendenning in Phoenix; and Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque, New Mexico.