Officers felled by Dallas sniper hailed as kind, devoted

AP News
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Posted: Jul 09, 2016 4:04 PM
Officers felled by Dallas sniper hailed as kind, devoted

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 this week's sniper attack in Dallas are being remembered for their character and service to others.

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

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A 'COPS' COP'

Michael Smith, 55, once received a "Cops' Cop" award from the Dallas Police Association.

Smith'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.

A 2009 article in the Dallas Police Association's newsletter 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.

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'A BIG GUY WITH AN EVEN BIGGER 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 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.

He volunteered, in uniform, at the school his 8-year-old and 10-year-old attended, said his mother-in-law, Karen Buckingham.

Ahrens, 48, 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 Friday.

Former sheriff's department colleagues described Ahrens as an incredible dispatcher who always looked out for the patrol deputies and took officer safety into account.

He began work at the department in 1991 and left for Dallas in January 2002.

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NEWLYWED STARTING A 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, according to DART Chief James Spiller.

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.

Thompson's last position was as the company's chief of operations for southern Iraq, where he helped train teams covering Baghdad to the southern border with Kuwait. He also worked in northern Iraq and in Afghanistan, where he was a team leader and lead mentor to a southern provincial police chief.

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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.

The Navy doesn't release deployment details, but a Dallas Morning News reporter encountered Zamarripa in 2004 as he guarded one of the offshore oil platforms that helped fuel Iraq's post-war economic rebuilding.

"We're protecting the backbone of Iraq," Zamarripa, a petty officer who also used the first name Patricio, told the newspaper. "A terrorist attack here would send the country down the drain."

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.

Zamarripa realized policing could be dangerous. His father recently put him in touch with an in-law who works elsewhere in government, hoping his son might leave the force.

"No, I want to stay here," was the reply, according to his father. "I like the action."

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'HE NEVER SHIED AWAY FROM HIS 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.

She later told Brian Schoenbaechler — Krol's brother-in-law — she became concerned after she learned shots were fired and Krol stopped answering his phone.

"He was a guy that was serving others," Schoenbaechler said. "And he gave his life in service of others."

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'WE NEED TO LOVE EACH OTHER'

Wounded by a bullet and shrapnel, Officer Jorge Barrientos is more 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. We need to love each other and stop the hate," Barrientos told the Dallas Morning News. "Stop dividing each other into different groups. . We're the same."

Barrientos has been on the force for four years. He was shot in the hand and released from the hospital early 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. "And that's what hurts the most?_?when the faith dwindles and you see the bloody results through horrific acts like these."

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A BULLET BROKE HER SHOULDER

From her hospital room, Dallas Area Rapid Transit authority Officer Misty McBride told family and friends the day after she was struck by gunfire that she just wanted to return to work, according to one of her friends.

"She's ready to get back out there," Wendy Carson said Friday after visiting the officer and her family. "She's a very, very strong woman."

McBride, an officer and mother of a 10-year-old girl, was recovering from bullets that her father said struck her abdomen and arm, breaking her shoulder.

Richard McBride told reporters at the hospital that he and his wife learned from one of McBride's colleagues that their daughter fell to the ground when shot and started crawling toward a police car. Another officer picked her up and drove her to the hospital.

"I'm just glad that she's alive, really," her daughter, Hunter, told reporters as she stood 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 and never discusses the dangers of her work.

"She is always willing to protect and serve, even off duty," Carson said.

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SHOT PROTECTING HER 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.

Amid the chaos, Taylor's 15-year-old son, Andrew, ran to his mother, who fell from the impact of the shot, and cradled her neck, Williams said.

The bullet shattered her tibia, Williams said. Taylor came out of surgery around 3:30 a.m. Friday at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas and remained in the hospital recuperating.

Two of Taylor's sons left the demonstration with her, but the other two — Jamar, 12, and Kavion, 17 — sought cover in a downtown hotel and were stuck behind a police barricade until around 4 a.m., when their father was able to pick them up, Williams said.

Taylor's other sister, Sherie Williams, said her own four children "can't sleep because of what's going on." Williams said she could hardly believe her sister was shot just over a year after her own 26-year-old son was shot in Minneapolis.

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A GAY OFFICER WHO 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 that Retana is open about his relationship at work and is supported by his colleagues.

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.

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RURAL KID TO BIG CITY OFFICER

Gretchen Rocha came to the Dallas police force by way of the farm.

The 23-year-old was wounded by shrapnel, but the family had no details on how it happened or the extent of her injuries.

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.

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 wanted to be a police officer.

"The way she put it is, 'I'm still in this,'" Schwartz said her sister told her. "She's so tough."

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles; Denise Lavoie in Boston; Jennifer Peltz in New York; Kimberlee Kruesi in Boise, Idaho; Todd Richmond in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin; Alina Hartounian in Phoenix; Christine Armario and Emily Schmall in Dallas; Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Lisa Baumann in Seattle.