Dallas sniper victims included dads, volunteers, vets
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 at least nine 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.
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.
In one incident, he was cut on the head when he intervened as a gang member lunged at his partner, the article said. Smith received 31 stitches.
“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
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.
Former sheriff’s department colleagues described Ahrens as an incredible dispatcher who always looked out for the patrol deputies.
He began work at the department in 1991 and left for Dallas in January 2002.
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.
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.
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.
Navy veteran with 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 hugely compassionate.
“Patrick would bend over backward to help anybody,” Rick Zamarripa said.
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.
Rick Zamarripa recently put his son in touch with an in-law who works elsewhere in government, hoping his son might leave behind the force and its risks.
“No, I want to stay here,” was the reply, according to his father. “I like the action.”
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.”
‘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 get back out there’
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 march, she would attend another demonstration to show her boys that she’s not a quitter.
Taylor, an Amazon employee, had 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 night. She says 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 in previous encounters between blacks and police.
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 the gunfire with another woman he didn’t know.
Taylor suffered a bad 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 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.
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.”