Obama praises slain Dallas officers for saving lives at protest

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
George W. Bush: Slain Dallas officers 'best among us'

DALLAS, July 12 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday praised Dallas police officers including the five slain at a protest against police violence last week for saving lives during the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement in almost 15 years.

"We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally," Obama told a memorial service for the slain police officers. "They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn."

"And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety," Obama added.

Former U.S. Army Reserve soldier Micah Johnson, 25, gunned down the officers in an ambush on Thursday after expressing anger over recent police killings of black people. Johnson then was killed by an explosive-laden robot sent in by police.

SEE ALSO: Trump slams Black Lives Matter for 'horrible' rhetoric

Johnson, who was black, opened fire during a march protesting the police shootings last week of two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and outside St. Paul, Minnesota, the latest in a string of high-profile killings that have stirred a deepest debate on race and justice in America.

"We mourn fewer people today because of your brave actions," Obama told a crowd several hundred people, including many uniformed police officers, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. "Despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest, despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed, these men and this department did their jobs as the professionals that they were."

Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, also addressed the packed hall, where five chairs were empty of people, holding folded American flags, in memory of the slain officers.

"At times it feels like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity," Bush said. "We do not want the unity of grief nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose."

For some, a portion of the former president's comments could be viewed as a subtle jab aimed at the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions," Bush added.

Following the ceremony Obama planned to meet with the families of the slain policemen and others who were wounded. The slain officers were Mike Smith, 55; Lorne Ahrens, 48; Michael Krol, 40; Brent Thomson, 43, and Patrick Zamarripa, 32.

See more on the Dallas shooting victims and memorials:

19 PHOTOS
Dallas shooting victims, memorials and aftermath
See Gallery
Dallas shooting victims, memorials and aftermath
Brent Thompson, of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, one of five officers killed in a shooting incident in Dallas, Texas, U.S., is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters July 8, 2016. Brent Thompson via LinkedIn/Handout via Reuters
This is Brent Thompson with his grandson. He's the first DART officer killed in the line of duty. https://t.co/XQuoF8xnCZ
Love you brother. Couldn't be prouder. We'll see you again. #PrayForDallas https://t.co/1oqeBxai7x
AP identifies Officer Patrick Zamarripa was one of the slain Dallas police officers... https://t.co/QxX4gHxfHu https://t.co/eZFlsm6KXX
Chicago Police Sgt. Charmane Kielbasa places a note of support on the bronze medallion at The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, Friday, July 8, 2016. Five law enforcement officers were killed in Dallas on Thursday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Emergency responder vehicles sit outside of the emergency room at Baylor University Medical Center, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Investigators leave the home of Micah Xavier Johnson in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Texas, Friday, July 8, 2016. A Texas law enforcement official identified Johnson, 25, as the sniper who opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Noelle Hendrix places flowers near the scene of a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. Snipers opened fire on police officers in the heart of Dallas during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Five red roses, a bouquet of flowers and a note of support for the Dallas Police Department lies on the bronze medallion at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, Friday, July 8, 2016. Five officers were killed in Dallas on Thursday. (AP Photo/Paul Holston)
Five red roses are seen on the bronze medallion at The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, Friday, July 8, 2016. Five law enforcement officers were killed in Dallas on Thursday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
FBI investigators look over the crime scene in Dallas, Texas, U.S. July 8, 2016 following a Thursday night shooting incident that killed five police officers. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
WASHINGTON, USA - JULY 8: The American Flags surrounding the base of the Washington Monument, with the US Capitol in the distance, are flying at half staff after President Obama ordered them to be lowered in honor of the five Police Officers killed by a gunman in Dallas the night before in Washington, USA on July 8, 2016. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 8 : People attend a vigil outside Dallas Police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, USA, 08 July 2016. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 8 : People attend a vigil outside Dallas Police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, USA, 08 July 2016. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 8 : People attend a vigil at the Cathedral Santuario De Guadalupe for the victims of Dallas shooting in Dallas, United States on July 8, 2016. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 8 : People attend a vigil outside Dallas Police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, USA, 08 July 2016. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 8 : People attend a vigil at the Cathedral Santuario De Guadalupe for the victims of Dallas shooting in Dallas, United States on July 8, 2016. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JULY 8 : People attend a vigil outside Dallas Police headquarters in Dallas, Texas, USA, 08 July 2016. (Photo by Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

A HATE CRIME

Obama told senior law enforcement officials on Monday that he sees the Dallas shooting as a hate crime, or one motivated by bias, said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, who was in the closed-door meeting at the White House.

Hate crimes, which carry more severe penalties, are offenses committed with an added element of bias against a person or group over race or ethnicity, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

Pasco said Obama drew a parallels between the actions of the Dallas shooter and Dylann Roof, the man prosecutors say espoused white supremacist beliefs before fatally shooting nine black people inside a church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.

Johnson's death makes the question of charges against him moot, but Pasco said police unions are using the incident to lobby for a change to a federal statute that would allow the targeting of police, regardless of their race, to be charged as a hate crime.

White House officials did not dispute Pasco's account of the meeting.

As he has done repeatedly after mass shootings in the past several years, Obama reiterated a call for stricter gun control in the United States following the Dallas attack.

The Senate took up the issue after an attack on a gay nightclub last month in Orlando that killed 49 people and was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But senators failed to agree on any one approach. While Democrats in the House, along with some Republicans, have been clamoring for legislation, deep divisions among Republicans who control the chamber have prevented any legislation from even reaching the House floor.

The death toll in Dallas was the highest for law enforcement on a single day in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Nine officers and two civilians were also wounded in the Dallas shootings.

Outside the hall, Sharice Williams, 41, who drove the roughly 95 miles (153 km) from Waco, stood in hopes of catching a glimpse of the president.

"My heart is heavy. I'm tired of seeing my brothers and sisters killed, but the police don't deserve that," said Williams, who is black. "I'm praying that Obama being here brings us some kind of peace."

(Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas, Ayesha Rascoe, Richard Cowan and Julia Edwards in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Frances Kerry and Will Dunham; Additional reporting by AOL.com)

Read Full Story

People are Reading