[By Tom Steele – Dallas News USA] Micah Xavier Johnson, the lone gunman in Thursday night’s ambush on police in downtown Dallas, was an Army veteran who friends described as a nice guy.
But he also was enraged with police shootings of black men around the country, he told negotiators during a tense standoff, and he “had very strong feelings about being black,” a former co-worker said.
Authorities are now investigating whether Johnson was directed by the militant groups he “liked” on social media — including the African American Defense League, the Black Riders Liberation Party, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and the New Black Panther Party — or merely emboldened by them.
“I think it’s safe to say we’ll leave no stone unturned,” Dallas police Deputy Chief Scott Walton said.
It’s unclear if Johnson was merely a follower or a more active participant of those groups.
Babu Omowale, co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a black militia that performs armed community patrols in Dallas, said Johnson attended black community events in Dallas.
Omowale told Reuters that he did not personally know Johnson but recognized him from group events.
“He wasn’t a stranger to us,” Omowale said.
Members of the group — formed in 2014 in response to police shootings — said Thursday’s attack was unfortunate but not surprising.
“There’s many people that this particular individual represents,” co-founder Yafeuh Balogun said. “He in a sense spoke on their behalf and unfortunately it made a lot of officers lose their lives.”
On Facebook, however, Balogun appeared to praise Johnson’s actions, writing Sunday, “He shall be celebrated one day.” People who replied called Johnson a hero who stood up to injustice.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Balogun posted, “I have no remorse for the Dallas Police Officers shot downtown, it’s about time.”
The militia’s co-founder wasn’t alone in that sentiment.
After the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota last week, black militant groups and others quickly called for people to seek vengeance against police.
And Dallas’ officers weren’t the only ones in the crosshairs.
Police were targeted during a traffic stop in a St. Louis suburb and an ambush after a 911 call in Valdosta, Ga. An officer was wounded in a series of highway shootings in northeastern Tennessee, and someone shot at San Antonio’s police headquarters.
Threats ranged from generic promises of violence to specific video posts. In Dallas, officers swarmed police headquarters Saturday after a report of a suspicious person in a garage before eventually issuing an all-clear.
Kemonte Gilmore was accused of posting a video online showing him in his vehicle behind a police car in Bossier City, La., holding a handgun and saying he wanted to kill an officer.
Ryan Lenz, senior writer at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said the number of black separatist groups nearly doubled in 2015, mirroring a similar increase among white hate groups that has taken place as frequent police killings make headlines.
But many people who become radicalized aren’t directly tied to any group, Lenz said. Instead, the internet helps them grow their anger in private.
“We are in a polarized political climate right now where the ‘us-vs.-them’ mentality has started to reign supreme,” he said.
Mawuli Davis, a black attorney and activist in Atlanta, said the unrest continues because there has been no serious dialogue about police and race.
Davis and his associates insist on peaceful protests as a means to an end, and most protests across the U.S. have gone on without a hint of violence.
But until that discussion happens, Davis said, he fears “we’re going to continue to see this kind of tragic incident” like the Dallas ambush.
“From an activist perspective, you’re seeing a level of frustration and anger that very well may be at a tipping point,” he said.
Staff writer Naheed Rajwani and The Associated Press contributed to this report.