What initially emerged during the overnight hours early Friday was a picture of multiple snipers targeting Dallas police officers in a deadly downtown ambush. The announced apprehension of three suspects and the later confirmation that a fourth suspect had been killed by police gave the strong impression of an organized, coordinated, multiple-person attack.
But as the day has worn on, that picture has muddied considerably. A daylight press conference by the Dallas police chief and mayor focused primarily on the lone holdout who was killed by police in the middle of the night when a robot was deployed with a bomb near his position. That suspect, identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, told police that he had acted alone, the chief said. Neither the chief nor the mayor would provide information about other suspects, declining even to say how many suspects were in custody.
That was a change from earlier police announcements, in which they said two snipers were involved and that three suspects were in custody. It’s difficult to piece together the various reports, and additional information may be forthcoming from law enforcement at any time, but here’s where the reports of three additional suspects came from and why it remains unclear whether this was a lone wolf or ambush team.
Shortly before midnight, police posted on Facebook that they were looking for two snipers.
Around 12:30 a.m. local time, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in a press conference that police were trying to negotiate with one sniper. The suspect was uncooperative and had exchanged fire with police, he said.
The suspect was eventually killed in a parking garage at El Centro College when police detonated a robot-controlled bomb shortly before 3 a.m., multiple outlets reported.
In the same early morning press conference, Brown said three people were in custody.
“We have in custody a female who was in the same area of the El Centro garage, and we followed a Mercedes with two suspects who had camouflage bags, who officers ended up stopping in traffic in the Oak Cliff area,” he told reporters.
Those remarks seem to match a Dallas Morning News report.
The paper reported: “Shortly before midnight, a Dallas police officer saw someone carrying a camouflaged bag, walking quickly down Lamar Street. The person threw the bag in the back of a black Mercedes-Benz that then sped off.”
The two people in the car were taken into custody and questioned, Brown said. No other details were being reported about the stop or the people in the car, but local news station WFAA reported they were questioned and released.
The department re-upped its post about two snipers carrying out the attack around 4:30 a.m., casting further uncertainty about how many suspects were being sought. The New York Times rectified the discrepancy by reporting “at least one sniper” was involved.
It’s not clear how many, if any, suspects were still in police custody on Friday, and the status of the three suspects taken into custody overnight wasn’t clear.
In a press conference shortly before 8 a.m. local time on Friday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said they would provide more information about the suspect or suspects “when it is the right time. Now is not the right time.”
Brown also said the deceased suspect told police he was acting alone and was not affiliated with any group. The suspect said he wanted to “kill white people, especially white officers,” he said.
The Times reported Johnson “appears to have been the lone gunman in the attack” in a news alert sent shortly after 1 p.m. ET, but their story still hedges on the number of shooters involved and suggests the three other individuals remain in police custody.
“At least one sniper…killed five officers and wounded seven others at a demonstration in Dallas on Thursday night,” the story read. “The sniper was killed, and three other people are in custody, officials said.”
In public remarks Friday afternoon, the police chief kept the door open to the possibility of multiple suspects, saying they were investigating “suspects.”
“I’m going to have to say some short, very brief comments and then head back to police headquarters to continue our investigation, but just to give you an update on what’s transpiring through our investigation of some of the suspects,” Brown said. “It’s been revealed to us that this was a well-planned, well-thought out, evil strategy by these suspects. And we won’t rest until we bring everyone involved to justice.”