As wounded police officers arrived at two Dallas emergency rooms after Thursday’s ambush attack, their colleagues were on hand to help to medical staff and families.
Detective Frederick Frazier, a vice president of the Dallas Police Association, ultimately saw each of the five slain officers. The final victim was Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, a friend to several board members in the police union.
“Me and a couple other guys had to put him in the body bag, because the nurses just couldn’t do it,” Frazier told BuzzFeed News on Saturday, calling the attack "the darkest day in Dallas law enforcement history."
“It’s a horrible thing to see, but in 21 years, it’s not the first time I’ve lost officers," he said. "So we kind of just have to strap up our boots, and get it done.”
Two days after the attack targeting police in downtown Dallas, many local law enforcement officers haven’t had time to process the emotions of losing so many friends and brothers in arms.
Officers will likely replay memories of the chaos for the rest of their lives, one retired officer said.
“Even though you’ve been gut-punched, they’re still going to be professionals,” said Monte Petersen, who retired two years ago after 29 years with the Dallas Police Department. “They’re still going to have pride that they’re wearing the Dallas police uniform, and they’re going to keep going on.”
In 1988, Petersen lost a close friend in the line of duty. As he was grieving, he was faced with the uncertainty and violence of police work.
“You might be having a really, really bad day, but you put that off, you put that uniform on, and your bad day stays in the locker while you go to work,” he said.
Images of chaos — the shooting of one officer was captured on video — are constantly replayed in the minds of officers even as they go to work the next day, Major Max Geron wrote in a blog post. He said he’s been moving between feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and also numbness.
“I haven’t allowed myself to cry yet. I know I need to at some point but I haven’t been able to 'schedule it,'” he wrote. "I expect that the funeral will be something of a catalyst but even then, there’s a certain professional decorum that 'must' be maintained at a police funeral."
Outside Dallas Police headquarters on Saturday, a memorial continued to grow around two squad cars. Throughout the day, Dallas residents arrived to leave flowers and pray. Several women dropped off baked goods for the officers inside. As uniformed officers passed by the crowd, residents stopped them for a handshake or a hug.
“All of our officers are very grateful for the support we’ve had not just from our community but from everyone all over the world really,” Senior Cpl. Monica Cordova told BuzzFeed News. “We’ve had messages from social media and via emails that have really helped us.”
In the coming days, Dallas will gather for five police funerals. Discussions will continue around the country about if and how the most tragic day for the city's law enforcement could have been prevented.
To Petersen, the attack was a fluke in a city that prides itself on good relationships between residents and police.
“You might have 95% of the people who are good law-abiding citizens, I don’t care where you are, what segment of town you’re in,” he said. “But you’re always going to have that small percentage who hate the cops, hate whoever.”
Geron, an advocate for police-community relations, wrote that he struggled with the deaths of the five officers, who had been working to protect the constitutional rights of protesters.
“It is imperative that we continue to deal with and overcome inherent bias and its effects on human beings,” he wrote. “All this during a tense time in our nation.”
Frazier said the attack was terrorism, adding that the Dallas police union will support efforts to include violence against police officers in hate crime statutes. Though people have a right to protest police, he questioned putting police in a vulnerable position alongside protests.
“How do you justify having a hate rally, and then having the people you hate there?” Frazier said. “We’re going to have to revisit how we protect them and putting our officers there. I don’t know the answer to that, but I think we’re going to have to come up with one very quickly.”
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at email@example.com.
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