The July 7, 2016 ambush that killed five Dallas police officers forever changed the lives of people who were close to the victims.
Four years later, some of those people are striving to make something good come from the tragedy.
It was a Black Lives Matter march that officers were protecting that night.
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Officer Patrick Zamarripa’s mother was told that her son bought food for a homeless man along the way. Valerie Zamarripa said the small act of kindness was an example of the kind of person and police officer her son was.
“Someone had taken his potato chips. So, Patrick went to the 7-11 right there and bought him a bag of chips and a drink,” Valerie Zamarripa said. “Patrick was a happy person. And Patrick was there to try to make a difference.”
When the shooting began, officers tried to guard the people who’d been demonstrating against police misconduct.
Zamarripa and four other officers were killed. Seven more officers were wounded.
Dr. Brian Williams was a trauma surgeon on duty that night at Parkland Hospital.
“It’s still something I think about every day. To this day, I still think about that night, how it impacted me personally, professionally, but also what it meant to the City of Dallas and families that lost their loved ones that evening,” Williams said. “That event forced me to look within myself at what I wanted to do, but also opened other doors where I could use my experience and expertise to have a greater impact on the world around me.”
Williams said losing so many officers in that manner, in the atmosphere of racial tension, opened his eyes to ways people can impact society.
Williams became Chairman of the Dallas Police Review Board, leading the push for one reform that demonstrators sought to increase community oversight of police.
Williams said he has carried a similar dedication to his new home in Chicago.
“We each have an individual obligation to look within ourselves to see what it is that we are contributing,” he said. “We must recognize that there’s a lot of work to be done. However, that does not give us permission to be complacent.”
On the 4th anniversary of the ambush, coronavirus limited the support that relatives of the victims have received from each other in previous years. There were no hugs Tuesday. There was a video conference meeting at Police Headquarters, instead.
Valerie Zamarripa wore a Dallas police polo shirt pinned with a picture of her son.
“I honor my baby and I try to honor all the police as much as possible each and every day,” she said.
The police officer’s mom hopes to keep the strong community support there was for police after the ambush alive. She is disturbed by negative remarks from some demonstrators that police receive now.
“We need to come together to make changes and do it the right way. Quit fighting each other. Let’s be united. We all bleed the same color. We all put our pants on one leg at a time, and we’re all here together,” she said.
On that night four years ago, police eventually killed suspect Micah Xavier Johnson with a robot in El Centro College as he resisted capture after the ambush.