DALLAS — The Dallas police officers who helped kill the gunman responsible for the deadly July 2016 ambush that killed five officers won’t face criminal charges for their work that night, a grand jury has decided.
Investigators on Wednesday presented their findings to the Dallas County grand jury. Grand jury proceedings are not usually made public, but the outcome of this one was expected.
The grand jury’s decision, confirmed by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, indicates that the criminal proceedings against the officers are over, concluding a criminal investigation that lasted nearly 18 months.
Bob Gorsky, the attorney who helped represent most of the involved officers, said in a written statement that they appreciate the grand jury’s decision and investigators’ “exhaustive efforts” along the way.
“We also remember, and will never forget, the police heroes of that evening, particularly those who lost their lives,” Gorsky said.
The officers killed in the ambush were: Brent Thompson, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer, 43; Dallas police Sgt. Michael Smith, 55; Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48; and Officers Michael Krol, 40, and Patrick Zamarripa, 32.
Dallas police said after the ambush that they had no option other than to use a remote-controlled robot to kill Micah X. Johnson, who holed up at the end of a hallway in El Centro College after killing four Dallas officers and a DART officer at a downtown protest.
Law enforcement experts have said the Dallas Police Department might have been the first law enforcement agency in the country to use a robot to kill a suspect.
Chief David Brown ordered the use of the robot. He has since retired, and it appears he did not testify before the grand jury this week.
Officers involved in fatal shootings usually go through two investigations: an internal affairs investigation to determine whether any departmental policies were violated and an investigation by the district attorney’s office to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of those who lost their lives that night, the officers who were injured, and all of the men and women who courageously put themselves into harm’s way, all in an effort to protect our community,” the DA’s office said in a written statement.
Police said Wednesday that they were pleased with the outcome of the grand jury referral and hope to move forward with the healing process.
“The Dallas Police Department, DART Police Department, the families of the fallen officers, and our community will never forget the tragedy of July 7, 2016 and the impact it has had on all of us,” Dallas police said in a written statement.
Authorities investigating the Dallas ambush collected 170 hours of body-cam video and interviewed more than 240 people, including the roughly 10 officers who fired their weapons that night and the two officers who used the explosive device that killed Johnson.
Police still have not released details about the deadly shooting, leaving many questions unanswered:
What types of guns did Johnson use? What exactly did he say during the 4 1/2 hours of negotiations with police? How did police use the robot, armed with C-4, to kill Johnson? He claimed — falsely — to have booby-trapped downtown with explosives, but what was found in his home?
Police in the past have declined to release much information about the ambush, saying the investigation was incomplete. The grand jury’s decision could signal an end to the criminal investigation, allowing police to talk more openly about the ambush.
Dallas Police Association President Michael Mata said it was expected that the officers involved in Johnson’s killing — many of them SWAT officers who often deal with tense scenarios — would not face criminal charges.
But the last 18 months created a cloud of uncertainty for the officers.
“All of these officers are going to have to deal with this for the rest of their lives,” Mata said, “not only seeing their fellow officers killed in the street but having to go through the ongoing mental stress that comes with being in the police profession.”
Mata added that he hopes the grand jury’s decision will help officers and the city move forward.
“It’ s unfortunate that, like the Kennedy assassination, this city has to be remembered for another tragic event,” Mata said, “but together the Dallas Police Department and the citizens of Dallas will heal.”
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