A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas was interrupted Thursday night by the sound of gunshots.
Around 9 p.m., shots were fired after demonstrators ended their protest for the deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were shot by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota last week.
Approximately 800 civilians and 100 officers were gathered, according to The New York Times, when the sound of shots fired caused people, including the officers, to scatter and
Twelve police officers were shot, five of which were fatally wounded. Two civilians were also wounded.
Dallas police chief David Brown said Micah Johnson, an Army veteran and Dallas resident, was the only gunman. The police killed Johnson during a standoff using a bomb-equipped robot early Friday morning.
In the minutes before Johnson’s death, he told the police officers near him that he was upset about the recent shootings of the two black men and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” according to the Times. Dallas police also said Johnson had bomb-making materials, according to the Associated Press.
Three other people have been taken into custody, but their identities and connections to the attack have not been shared.
Tro’juan Henderson, eyewitness to the attack and participant in the rally, said the atmosphere at the gathering was peaceful for both participants and police officers.
“[Then] I heard shots, a lot of shots and we just tried to take cover, run, duck and everything because we didn’t know where it was coming from,” Henderson said. “We started hearing officers yelling, ‘Get back, back up,’ and I hid behind a wall, me and a lot of people.”
Henderson said he thought the attack was over but more shots were heard a few minutes later, causing people to duck behind the walls again.
UT alumna Paige Schutze, also present at the rally, said the shooting was especially “unfair” because they were at a peaceful demonstration.
“My second thought was one that I did not expect, and one that will leave a lasting impression on me,” Schutze said. “I thought about the situation I was in, and how for the first time in my life, I understood to an extent the reality of what black Americans live with on a regular basis.”
Economics junior Cameron Maxwell, treasurer for Black Student Alliance and external relations for African American Affairs, interns about one block from where the attack occurred. He said he was luckily home when the shooting happened but found out about the incident through Twitter and was shocked at the news.
“I was overwhelmed and disgusted pretty much because one of my friends had invited me to go out to the rally but … I wasn’t able to go,” Maxwell said. “I very well could’ve been out there as well. It was just kind of shocking for something like that … [to happen] so close to home, somewhere where you were just a couple of hours ago."
Maxwell also said people shouldn’t make assumptions about an entire group of people based on the actions of one individual.
“Events like this do occur, but it’s not representative of a whole culture,” Maxwell said. “Hopefully when I get back to campus, everyone’s going to treat me the same and I hope that my African-American friends will look at our peers the same way.”
UT President Gregory Fenves sent an email Friday night to the UT community discussing the University’s efforts to promote a diverse campus.
“With students returning to campus next month along with faculty members and staffers, I want to reiterate UT Austin’s strong commitment to fostering an inclusive educational environment in which all students feel they belong,” Fenves said.