Helping others a hallmark of Dallas officers

The Associated Press

They were spouses and parents. They volunteered in schools and at church. And they had sworn to serve and protect.

The five officers killed in Thursday’s sniper attack in Dallas are being remembered for their character and service to others.

The attack also injured seven officers and two civilians. Here’s a closer look at the victims:

A cops’ cop

Michael Smith, 55, once received a “Cops’ Cop” award from the Dallas Police Association.

His 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.

Smith was an Army Ranger before joining the Dallas Police Department in 1989. He volunteered at his church and the YMCA, according to a 2009 Dallas Police Association’s newsletter.

The article described him as conscientious, noting he often attended advanced training on his own dime.

“He’s just a really nice guy. He loved his wife, loved his daughters. He spent time with his family,” Vanessa Smith, a friend of the officer’s wife, told The Associated Press.

Big man, big heart

Lorne Ahrens’ 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.

Lorne Ahrens was already out of surgery Thursday when Katrina Ahrens arrived, her father, Charlie Buckingham, told the Washington Post. Then doctors had to take him back in, and he died, Charlie Buckingham said.

“Lorne was a big guy with an even bigger heart,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Merrill Ladenheim said in a department Facebook post.

Newlywed starting 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.

On Thursday, he became 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.

“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.”

An urge to serve

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 compassionate. “Patrick would bend over backward to help anybody,” he said.

Zamarripa, who would have turned 33 next month, was married with a 2-year-old daughter and 10-year-old stepson.

Always ready for 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 hospital, then was a deputy at the Wayne County jail.

His brother-in-law told The Detroit News Krol “always wanted to be a cop.”

“He always wanted to help and serve other people,” Brian Schoenbaechler said.

‘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 was shot in the hand and released from the hospital Friday.

He said he was feet away from other officers who were killed.

“You can’t do this job unless you love people; you can’t do this job unless you have faith in what you’re doing,” he told the newspaper.

Injured officer released

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 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.

Shot protecting sons

Shetamia Taylor wasn’t one to protest publicly, but recent shootings of black men by police motivated her to head to downtown Dallas with her four sons. The 37-year-old Amazon employee was shot in the calf after trying to shield them when gunfire erupted, according to her sister.

Taylor was “fed up” so she decided to march with her sons — ages 12, 13, 15 and 17 — her sister Theresa Williams said.

“She’s got four boys who she just wants to be able to be peacefully out here in the world,” Williams said.

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 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.

Resource Center communications manager Rafael McDonnell called Retana a friend and said he was recovering after leaving the hospital.

Officer reflects on tensions

Ivan Saldana was among the Dallas police officers directing traffic downtown during the protest when the shots rang out.

By Saturday, Saldana was up walking around his home, recovering from a shrapnel wound to his right leg.

“Everything happened so quickly, but at the same time, everything was so slow,” Saldana, 44, told The Dallas Morning News.

A 15-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, 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.

“I hope it gets better, but it feels like it’s going to get worse,” he said.

Rural kid, big city

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.

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.