One was a newlywed. Another had survived multiple tours in Iraq. A third had always wanted to be a cop. The stories of the officers gunned down in a sniper attack in Dallas during a protest over recent police shootings of black men emerged Friday as their identities became known. Authorities say five officers were killed and at least seven others wounded in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Brent Thompson, 43
Brent Thompson had worked as an officer for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit authority for the last seven years.
DART Chief James Spiller said Thompson had married another DART officer within the last two weeks.
"Brent was a great officer," Spiller told MSNBC early Friday. "He has served admirably during his time here at DART."
Thompson, who lived in Corsicana, Texas, had six grown children from a previous marriage and had recently welcomed his third grandchild, said Tara Thornton, a close friend of Thompson's 22-year-old daughter, Lizzie. Thornton said Thompson and his close-knit family would often get together and have classic rock singalongs, with Thornton and his son, Jake, playing guitars.
"He was a brave man dedicated to his family," said Thornton.
"He loved being a police officer. He instantly knew that's what he wanted to do. He knew he wanted to save lives and protect people. He had a passion for it," she said. "He was just a wonderful guy."
Before joining the DART force, Thompson worked from 2004 to 2008 for DynCorp International, an American private military contractor. According to Thompson's LinkedIn page, he worked as an international police liaison officer, helping teach and mentor Iraqi police. Thompson's last position was as the company's chief of operations for southern Iraq, where he helped train teams covering Baghdad to the southern border with Kuwait. He also worked in northern Iraq and in Afghanistan, where he was a team leader and lead mentor to the southern provincial police chief.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our alumni. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this most difficult time," said Mary Lawrence, a spokeswoman for DynCorp, headquartered in McLean, Virginia.
Patrick Zamarripa, 32
Dallas police Officer Patrick Zamarripa had an urge to serve — first in the Navy, where his family said he did three tours in Iraq, then back home in Texas as a Dallas police officer.
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"Patrick would bend over backward to help anybody. He'd give you his last dollar if he had it. He was always trying to help people, protect people," his father, Rick Zamarripa, told the Associated Press by phone Friday. "As tough as he was, he was patient, very giving."
Zamarripa, who would have turned 33 next month, was married with a toddler and school-age stepchild. He joined the Navy shortly after high school in Fort Worth, serving eight years on active duty and then in the reserves, according to the Navy. The Navy doesn't release deployment details, but a Dallas Morning News reporter encountered Zamarripa in 2004 as he helped guard one of the offshore oil platforms that help fuel Iraq's post-war economic rebuilding.
"We're protecting the backbone of Iraq," Zamarripa, a petty officer who also used the first name Patricio, told the newspaper. "A terrorist attack here would send the country down the drain."
After doing security work in the Navy, a police career seemed a natural fit once he returned to Texas in 2009. Zamarripa joined the Dallas force about five years ago and recently was assigned to downtown bicycle patrols, his father said.
Zamarripa realized policing was a dangerous job. His father recently put him in touch with an in-law who works elsewhere in government, hoping his son might leave the force.
"'No, I want to stay here,'" he said, according to his father. "'I like the action.'"
Rick Zamarripa knew his son was assigned to patrol Thursday's demonstrations, so when he saw news of the shooting on TV, he texted his son to make sure he was all right. The father did that whenever he heard officers were in danger. Typically, his son would text back quickly to say he was fine and would call back later.
This time, no reply came.
"He went over there (to Iraq) and didn't get hurt at all, and he comes back to the states and gets killed," his father said.
Zamarripa is survived by his wife, Kristy Villasenor, whom he'd known since high school; their 2-year-old daughter, Lyncoln, and a 10-year-old stepson.
Michael Krol, 40
Family photo via Washington Post
Family photo via Washington Post
He had worked difficult jobs, waited for years and moved more than 1,000 miles, but finally the day had come: Michael Krol was officially a police officer.
He stood there before the cameras, goofy grin and all, as his Michigan family crowded around to watch him hoist a certificate saying he had graduated from the Dallas Police Academy. It was April 25, 2008. Krol, then 32, still had a cherub face. And he seemed to have a long career ahead of him.
It came to a tragic halt Thursday night when a sniper took aim at Dallas officers at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, killing five of them, including Krol, 40. The news of his death reached his mother's doorstep in Redford, outside of Detroit, early Friday morning. Ever since, the family has been struggling to reconcile the gentle manner that they say defined Krol's life and the violence of his death. He never wanted to hurt anyone. He wanted to protect people. How could this happen?
"He was a big guy and had a big heart, and he was a really caring person and wanted to help people," said brother-in-law Brian Schoenbaechler, 44, a management consultant in Atlanta. "It doesn't seem real. His mom's had a difficult time."
Krol's mother, Susan Ehlke, couldn't bring herself to talk about her son's death. "Can we end this call?" she said after a brief phone interview. "It's just a very difficult time."
Krol always wanted to be a cop. It was just a question of how he was going do it and where. After high school, where he excelled at basketball and towered well over 6 feet, he took a job as a security guard at a Michigan hospital. There, Schoenbaechler said, his brother-in-law's two passions — caring for and protecting others — coalesced.
His brother-in-law remembered how Krol tended one sick older patient.
"I don't remember who it was," Schoenbaehler said, "but he stayed with that person and provided them with care and helped them to use the bathroom and stuff that most guys wouldn't do. And I was just like, 'Wow, that's powerful that he can help others in that way.' "
But that job was also a means to achieve his true goal. He parlayed his security experience into a job working in the Wayne County jail system. It wasn't glamorous, but he thought it was the only way he'd find a way to patrol the streets. "It was an opportunity for him to go from being a security guy to being a cop," his brother-in-law said.
In 2007, Krol learned the Dallas police force was hiring so he took a gamble, leaving his community, family and friends to move 1,100 miles south to a city he barely knew, Schoenbaechler recalled. "He said, 'This is something that I wanted to do.'" So he did it.
And he kept on doing it, graduating from the police academy, making a new life in Dallas and meeting a significant girlfriend, all while remaining close to his family. When Krol's sister, Amy Schoenbaechler, had surgery a few years ago, he came and stayed with her family for two weeks in Atlanta and took care of the kids, her husband said. When they got together, Schoenbaechler would tip a few beers and listen to Krol tell "crazy" stories of life as a Dallas cop. But Krol himself, his sister remembered, never drank.
He was always in control. Always the calm one. Always the one to diffuse chaotic situations.
Until he became the victim of one.
Michael Smith, 55
Family photo via Dallas Morning News
Family photo via Dallas Morning News
Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, was a father to two young girls, WFAA reported. He was an Army ranger and later went on to attend the Lamar Institute of Technology, according to the news organization.
A veteran officer, Sgt. Smith was known as conscientious and professional, an officer who cared so deeply that he would even dip into his own pocket to pay for his training if needed.
He consistently received outstanding performance awards, including a "Cops' Cop" award from the Dallas Police Association.
That training came in handy a few years ago when he and a partner were working near downtown Dallas, according to a 2009 write-up in the DPA magazine.
"Sgt. Smith and his partner made contact with a pair of gang members which they did not know. While Sgt. Smith was searching one of the members, he noticed that the other gang member lunged at his partner with an unknown object in his hand. Sgt. Smith intervened to protect his partner and was cut with an unknown object on the head. Sgt. Smith was taken to the hospital with a large laceration. It took 31 stitches to close the wound."
Smith, a Port Arthur native, earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from Lamar University in 1989, the Dallas Morning News reports. He joined the Dallas Police Department that same year. His wife teaches at Mary Immaculate in Farmers Branch.
"You couldn't ask for a more salt of the earth kind of guy," Vanessa Smith, a family friend, told the Morning News.
Married almost 20 years, with two children in their young teens, Smith wasn't ready to retire.
"He loved his job and the guys on the force, and he loved his wife and kids, said Vanessa Smith. "I can't imagine what his wife and daughters are going through. You just don't expect it. It's devastating."
Lorne Ahrens, 48
It was hard to miss Lorne Ahrens, in uniform or out.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound former semi-pro football player could turn heads just by showing up, according to his father-in-law, Charlie Buckingham.
"He was a big ol' boy," Buckingham said Friday, the day after Ahrens was killed in the sniper attack on Dallas police officers. "Big as he is, just walking down the street he cut a real figure. I'm sure it helped him in his work."
Buckingham had been watching the events in downtown Dallas unfold from his home in Burleson, Texas, a few miles from where Ahrens lived with Buckingham's daughter Katrina and the couples' children, a 10-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy.
He knew his son-in-law could be there. He knew his daughter, a Dallas police detective, was still asleep. She had gone to bed early in order to be up by 3 a.m. for an early shift. Buckingham and his wife decided to drive over.
"We got there just a few minutes after the Dallas police knocked on her door," Buckingham. "They told her she should come down to the hospital with them."
Katrina Ahrens dressed quickly and left with the officers, Buckingham said. He and his wife stayed with the children, who were still asleep. According to Buckingham, Ahrens was already out of surgery when Katrina Ahrens got there. But then something went wrong.
"They had to take him back in," Buckingham said with an exhausted voice. "She said he didn't make it."
Dallas police said Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens was a 14-year veteran of the department. He worked for a time in a unit serving warrants, Buckingham said, an assignment where danger can come with any door knock. Ahrens may have quelled a lot of potential resistance with his bulk, a shaved head and heavily tattooed arms.
In one 2003 incident, according to court documents, Ahrens, with his lineman's build, sprinted fast enough to tackle a suspected cocaine dealer running away from a bust. According to testimony, the suspect had dropped a .38 caliber pistol and an SKS assault rifle was found in the house.
The couple had an understanding about their chosen careers.
"She was fine with it," Buckingham said. "She was a police officer too."
Earlier, Ahrens had been an officer in a sheriff's department in his native California, according to Buckingham. He grew up near Los Angeles, his father-law said, and still has family in Simi Valley. He played a few years of semi-professional football in the state.
The couple was married at a ceremony in Lake Tahoe shortly before they moved to Texas, Buckingham said.
Ahrens may have been big, but he had a soft touch with children, according to his father-in-law. He rolled on the floor with them gleefully and liked to take them fishing and to the movies. More than once, he went in uniform to his daughter's school to talk about policing and safety.
"He loved it here," Buckingham said. "He found it just a slower, easier-going part of the world."
Here is information about some of the other nine people who were wounded in the shootings Thursday night.
Misty McBride, an officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit authority, was shot in the arm and abdomen, according to her father, who said the bullet that struck her arm broke her shoulder.
Overall, McBride was doing "fine," her father, Richard McBride, told reporters as she awaited surgery at a Dallas hospital Thursday night.
Richard McBride and his wife learned from one of his daughter's colleagues that she fell to the ground when shot and started crawling toward a police car. Another officer picked her up and drove her to the hospital, where her family soon joined her.
"I'm just glad that she's alive, really," her 10-year-old daughter, Hunter, told reporters. "I said that 'I love you and that I'm glad you're here.'"
• • •
Shetamia Taylor was shot in the calf after trying to shield her sons when gunfire erupted, according to her sister.
Taylor, 37, came to the march with her four sons, ages 12 to 17, her sister, Theresa Williams, said. She had surgery Friday.
Two of Taylor's sons left the demonstration with her, but the other two, Jamar, 12, and Kavion, 17, were stuck behind a police barricade at a hotel near a parking garage where police exchanged gunfire with a suspect, Williams said.
Taylor's other sister, Sherie Williams, said her own four children "can't sleep because of what's going on." Williams said she could hardly believe her sister had been shot just over a year after her own 26-year-old son was shot in Minneapolis.
Information from the Associated Press, the Dallas Morning News and Washington Post was used in this report.