As night fell on the Texas Peace Officer Memorial monument on Thursday, hundreds gathered with blue ribbons pinned to their clothes and blue glow sticks in hand to remember and recognize the five officers who lost their lives in Dallas on July 7.
The officers were killed by Micah Xavier Johnson as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest was ending in downtown Dallas. The vigil was sponsored by the Austin Police Association and the Austin Police Department, but officers from all over central Texas attended the memorial — including officers from the San Marcos Police Department and the University of Texas Police Department.
The protest in Dallas was in response to the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minneapolis by police officers.
Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, opened the vigil with comments on the tragic events that occurred.
“Although …we wish what was done could be undone, we know that others will get up, go to work, right the wrong, keep the peace, [and] uphold the rule of law no matter what,” Casaday said. “[The fallen officers] kept their promise …to their communities and for that they are heroes.”
Five officers from APD read a short description of each of the slain officers’ lives, placing a rose on a wreath after each reading. The names of the officers that were killed — Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Patrick Zamarripa, and Brent Thompson — will be added to the memorial next year.
Texas Sen. Kirk Watson thanked all the officers there for the service they provide everyday and urged those in attendance to stop the unnecessary violence.
“None of us will find peace in conflict. None of us should rest easy while others struggle,” Watson said. “It’s time for us to throw away the labels and hear one another. We each have a responsibility and an opportunity to treat each other with respect and dignity in every encounter.”
Fatima Mann, co-founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, said she wants the killings to stop. She supports officers and wants police reform to provide a fair and just system for all.
“The only thing that we’re asking for is that we’re allowed to go in front of a judge and a jury of our peers,” Mann said. “We’re not anti-anything. We just want people to stop dying just because.”
For students looking to create a safer environment around campus, UTPD Lt. Laura Davis recommends getting involved with community outreach programs, such as SafeRide.
“We have several different crime prevention programs that we put on. Those are some ways we reach out and put people in a place with a police officer so they can see them in a different [perspective],” Davis said. “We’re always looking at ways to make ourselves better and to be more [connected with] the community, but we need the communities help with that as well.”