Micah Xavier Johnson has been identified as the shooter in last night’s horrifying murder of five Dallas-area police officers. Johnson was confirmed dead early this morning after a bomb robot detonated an explosive charge that he had set up in the parking garage where he made his final stand.
Completely unknown to the Black Lives Matter organizers whose march he interrupted with rifle fire, Johnson was a former Army Reserve soldier whose social media trail shows signs of radicalization in isolation. During the hours-long standoff, Johnson told police that he “wanted to kill white people” out of anger over the recent police killings of two black men, but that he had acted alone, not as part of a larger group.
That’s the usual case with suicide shooters — people who decide to go out in a ‘blaze of glory,’ killing everyone they can until they are stopped by outside action or kill themselves. (Tellingly, they are almost never stopped with a privately-owned firearm.) Grown increasingly common in recent years, such incidents rarely ever involve more than two gunmen. (They are almost always men.) Dennis Marx, the ‘sovereign citizen’ who attacked a courthouse in Georgia with weapons and explosives two years ago, is another typical example of someone who wants to die while killing the police who represent all the evils of government in his mind.
But there were still plenty of other arrests last night while Dallas police cordoned off the combat zone and tried to reign in a potential conspiracy.
Two other suspects were seen with a camouflage bag getting into a black Mercedes near Lamar Street, the police said. The suspects drove away at high speed. Officers pursued the vehicle for about six miles before stopping it and taking them into custody.
Because Texas is an open carry state where public display of firearms has been completely normalized, police were immediately overwhelmed with such reports, wasting time and resources to chase down and arrest people who were totally unconnected to Johnson.
Of course, the people they arrested for making proud displays of the Second Amendment last night were all black. Because whatever the gun lobby may say about the supposed sacredness of gun rights, the lives and freedom of black gun owners clearly don’t matter a damn bit to the NRA.
That’s plain to see from their organizational silence regarding the subjects of last night’s protest in Dallas.
Philando Castile, a genuine pillar of the community, was killed behind the wheel of his car despite cooperating fully with the officer who shot him. Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a legal firearm, as he is required to do, and died anyway.
So far, the National Rifle Association hasn’t made a peep about it. Too busy race-baiting, probably.
Castile died a day after Alton Sterling was shot in the heart at point-blank range by a Baton Rouge officer while he was subdued on the ground. Sterling was also legally armed at the time of his arrest, and video from the scene shows police had removed the weapon from his pocket before he was shot.
Officers confiscated the security camera videos from the convenience store afterwards, and it is only because the store manager used his iPhone to surreptitiously record the incident that we even know what happened. Castile’s girlfriend managed to record and upload cell phone video of his final moments, so of course Minnesota police arrested her and confiscated the phone, too.
These efforts at ass-covering are exactly what BLM activists complain about in other police shootings: ‘the thin blue line’ closes ranks, hides the evidence, and refuses to be held accountable.
Of course, none of the police that Johnson killed or wounded had anything to do with either Castile or Sterling’s death. Brent Thompson, 43, is the first Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer killed in the line of duty; the others — Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, and Patrick Zamarripa — were in the Dallas PD. By all reports, they were outstanding officers who had never shot anyone.
But it’s also worth noting that a civilian was hit, too, because Johnson clearly hated white police more than he loved black life, or even his own life. That important observation is getting lost in the cacophony of reactions.
Many whites, who ordinarily believe out loud that their guns are necessary to wage war against a tyrannical government, are horrified that a black man took such propaganda seriously — why didn’t he understand that only Democrats can be tyrants? — and the standard right wing chatter about ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ is once again defaulting to the racial authoritarianism which underpins so much of conservative political culture.
Then there are Black Lives Matter activists, who enjoyed a complete moral advantage 24 hours ago. Now, Johnson’s attack has consumed all the media oxygen and done tremendous harm to their cause, for police apologists are already making hay out of it. These waters are not just muddy, they’re opaque with blood, and too many people will not recognize the ratio of thousands of peaceful protesters to a single angry shooter.
This is what Johnson wanted. Impatient with marches and protests, he dreamed of a more extreme reckoning that would sate his appetite for violent revenge. He’s not the only one who has felt this way lately: in Portland, Oregon yesterday, well-known right wing agitator Michael Strickland was so terrified when unarmed BLM activists approached that he brandished his pistol and threatened to open fire on them. Though Johnson and Strickland lie on opposite sides of a burning issue, their impulse is exactly the same.
It’s an election year. Demographic shifts are challenging white supremacy like never before, further intensifying the apocalyptic mindset of a conservative movement that is terrified of losing its grip on power. The stakes are high, everyone is on edge, and America has more privately-owned firearms than any other nation on Earth. In all likelihood, Micah Johnson will not be the last man to seize our attention this way before November.