On Thursday night, around the time the gunfire started, Kristy Villasenor, the wife of a Dallas police officer, posted a picture of herself and her toddler daughter on Facebook from a Texas Rangers baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Soon after, one of her friends commented anxiously on the photo: “Glad Pat is there and not in Dallas right now.” Villasenor replied: “He’s not here.”
Pat — her husband, Officer Patrick Zamarripa — was in Dallas during the game, caught in the crosshairs of a sniper’s rifle that would eventually claim his life and those of four other officers.
The news of the killings emerged almost in real time online. At 10:53 p.m., the Dallas Police Department posted a Twitter message announcing that 10 officers had been shot during a protest rally, three of them fatally. Twenty minutes later, a second message said that a fourth officer had been killed. Then, after midnight, there was a third: “It has been a devastating night. We are sad to report a fifth officer has died.”
By Friday afternoon, the full scope of the city’s losses was clear: At least two of the slain officers had served overseas in the military, only to die back home in Texas. A third had made his way to Dallas after working at a jail outside Detroit. A fourth was a large man — about 6-foot-5 — who had the semblance of a grizzly bear, according to a friend. The fifth was a standout on Dallas’ large, modern force: The local police association had named him the “Cops’ Cop” for February 2009.
As condolences for the men poured in all day on Friday — from the governor to the secretary general of the United Nations — details of the officers’ lives started to emerge. “We’re hurting, our profession is hurting,” said David O. Brown, the Dallas police chief.
The first officer to be identified was Brent Thompson, 43, who worked for the police force of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which operates trains and buses in the region. Thompson, the first DART officer to die in the line of duty, joined the transit force in 2009 and patrolled the northwestern section of the transit system, according to his LinkedIn page.
Before Dallas, he worked for DynCorp International as a police liaison officer and helped train fellow officers in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had also been a police academy instructor in Corsicana, Texas, southeast of Dallas, where he attended high school.
He started in law enforcement in the Navarro County sheriff’s office, where he was assigned to the county jail, said Leslie A. Cotten Sr., the former sheriff. But like most young officers, Cotten said, “he wanted to get out on patrol and ride around in a patrol car and do a different job.”
Family members, writing on Facebook, were the first to publicly identify Zamarripa, a seven-year veteran of the Dallas force who had spent time in the Navy and served tours in Iraq as a military policeman. His Navy records released on Friday showed that he enlisted in 2001 and had also been posted in Florida, Illinois, Texas, Virginia and Bahrain.
When he finished his military service, Zamarripa, a fan of the Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys, returned to the Dallas area and joined the Police Department, said his uncle, Hector Zamarripa. He lived in the Fort Worth area with Villasenor and their 2-year-old daughter, Lyncoln. He also had a stepson, his uncle said.
On Friday afternoon, the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization — Zamarripa was a member — held a somber lunch for grieving supporters.
“A good kid, man, a good young kid,” said Sgt. George Aranda, who runs the organization. “He loved his job. I talked to his mom last night, and even his mom said this was Patrick’s dream. This is what he wanted to be, a police officer.”
The third slain officer was Michael Krol, 40. Before moving to Dallas, Krol had served in the Wayne County, Michigan, jail system from 2003 to 2007, said the county sheriff, Benny N. Napoleon. Two of Krol’s relatives declined to be interviewed on Friday.
A fourth officer, Lorne Ahrens, was married to a Dallas police detective and was regarded as a lawman devoted to the profession that he pursued in Dallas for more than a dozen years.
“There are very few officers I’ve met who are more passionate about doing the job right than that man,” said Timothy S. Rodgers, a former prosecutor in Dallas County. “He was always calling me. He always had questions like, ‘What can I do better in this situation?’ ”
Ahrens had worked in patrol and on property crimes. Rodgers recalled with a chuckle that his friend had a knack for finding criminals who would challenge him, despite his hefty size.
The fifth slain officer was Michael J. Smith, who joined the Police Department in September 1989 after growing up in the southeastern corner of the state. In a publication acknowledging his Cops’ Cop award, the Police Association said that Smith held an array of posts: in personnel, on patrol and at the airport. The publication also said he had been injured on duty years ago when a gang member “lunged at his partner with an unknown object in his hand.”
At a news conference on Friday morning, Mayor Mike Rawlings stood beside Brown and said: “To say that our police officers put their lives on the line every day is no hyperbole, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a reality.”
A few hours earlier, the department had posted yet another Twitter message: “Thank you to the members of our community for your show of support during this difficult time.”