In an interview with NBC 5 Investigates, the head of Dallas' Huey P. Newton Gun Club says the gunman who ambushed and killed five Dallas police officers following a peaceful protest was not a member of their group despite reports making the link.
Babu Omowole said his group was familiar with Micah Xavier Johnson from events he attended with other area black nationalists but that he wasn't a member of the club.
The Facebook photo flashed across the world showing Johnson raising his fist in the Black Power salute was taken May 21 at a Malcom X festival in South Dallas.
“He just seemed like a normal person, very human. You just never expected this,” said Akwete Tyehimba, who helped organize the event.
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Tyehimba said Johnson had attended the event and visited her store that day and believes he came searching for a connection to his roots.
“I think he was thirsty for knowledge you know, looking, you know, he may have been looking in some of the wrong places, but I think coming in here was part of that thirst to know more about his self,” said Tyehimba
That event was also attended by members of area black nationalist groups including the Huey P. Newton Gun Club.
“I didn't even know his name was Micah but I could identify his face because I had seen him multiple times, said Omowole, the group’s leader.
Omowole created the gun club two years ago in response to police shootings of black men. The organization conducts paramilitary training and advocates the open carry of fire arms.
Members were at Thursday night’s march in downtown Dallas but insist Johnson was not with them and has never been a member of the group.
“I'm telling you that Micah Johnson did not have any connection to us. But at the same time, I'm telling you we do understand what he did,” said Omowole.
In the hours after the attack, some members of the gun club celebrated on social media. On Facebook, one member wrote, “I have no remorse for the Dallas police officers shot today. It’s about time.”
In the interview, Omowole said he neither agrees or disagrees with posts like that, but said the shooting was inevitable.
With frustration in the community, Omowole’s own group has increasingly been at odds with police.
In June, members effectively shut down a gas station in Oak Cliff with rifles after a member of the community claims a store clerk pulled a gun on he and his wife.
“We're really concerned about our young people and the decisions they’re making out there,” said Tyehimba.
Tyehimba wonders about the man she met in May and whether something might have changed his path.
“I really regret now that we didn't take some time to talk,” said Tyehimba.
Dallas police said they will leave no stone unturned in looking at whether Johnson had been influenced by any groups. The department has not named any groups it might be looking at.
The FBI has said Johnson was not on their radar before Thursday’s attack.