Sheriffs respond to Dallas attack on police
Area county sheriffs reacted Friday to an attack in Dallas, Texas, that claimed the lives of five police officers.
Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron called the incident “tragic” and noted that “our hearts and prayers and thoughts go out to the law enforcement officers that were inv
olved in that last night and their families.”
“Unfortunately, it’s a threat that deputies, police officers, troopers, game wardens, whomever it might be face every day,” McEathron said. “The world is changing and it’s really unfortunate some of these things occur, but we always have our deputies remain vigilant, aware of their surroundings and a situation like this no one could’ve planned for.”
At the same time, McEathron said the way his agency tries to prepare and that approach has changed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Any way we look at what we do and how we try to plan and how we try to protect our communities, we’re well aware of the different events that go on and sometimes just because you don’t see a law enforcement presence there doesn’t mean we don’t have a plan of how we’d handle something if we get called there.”
McEathron voiced relief that such an attack has not happened in the region.
“We’re fortunate in this little corner of the world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen at any given time,” McEathron said. “You can only hope that you have the people in place and the resources to try to prevent it from becoming worse than what it may be.”
Asked if he thought an incident like the one in Dallas could prompt his agency to increase security for events and gatherings in the future, McEathron said organizers likely wouldn’t want a large police presence that might drive people away.
“Anywhere across America, we don’t want to see that a local event of a parade or whatever, that you have to have guns on the rooftops,” McEathron said. “If there was an event that was something that specifically needed that type of attention, we’re prepared to have to be able to do that.”
Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter responded via email about the Dallas incident.
“I have faith that the vast majority of the people we serve understand the difficulties and dangers that law enforcement officers face every day,” Carter stated. “While we are tasked with enforcing the law, we must remain vigilant as we protect the public and their property, but we must also protect ourselves, and protect the civil liberties of those we serve. It is a difficult job, but I know that the staff (and I believe law enforcement overall) that I work with are committed to these responsibilities.”
Later by telephone, Carter said, “Law enforcement officers live in a world today … they make a split-second decision; it’s video recorded either by cell phone or some type of recording device and then all of a sudden there’s this analysis that goes on for months …”
“But at the same time, and from what I know about the Dallas situation, those officers were basically there protecting the civil liberties of people that were protesting and they were the subject of assassinations,” Carter said. “So it’s a difficult time and it’s a very challenging time to live in but that’s what the people that I know in law enforcement signed up to do.”
Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland also remarked on the attack, calling the events that unfolded “devastating.”
“It was just unbelievable that in the United States something like that could happen and it happened in Dallas of all places, and you know it was right in the middle of a march for an issue that someone was marching for,” Millholland said. “But it, unfortunately, could happen anywhere anymore.”
Millholland pointed out the details released in the wake of the shootings and commented that “it’s hard to prepare for stuff like that.”
The officers in Dallas went from serving as protectors of the protesters to targets, Millholland noted.
He said he spoke to a group a couple of months ago and told them there might come a time when residents in Frederick County and other communities would need to shoulder the cost of keeping two law enforcement officers in each vehicle to ensure their safety while doing their job.
Virginia state police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty authorized sworn personnel to wear the mourning band on Friday in honor of the slain officers and issued this statement earlier that morning:
“The Dallas Police Department, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police, and the families of the slain and injured officers are in the thoughts and prayers of every Virginia State Police member,” Flaherty stated. “There are truly no words to describe the pain we share with law enforcement worldwide in the wake of what took place overnight in downtown Dallas.
“As Texas authorities continue their investigation into these tragic shootings, our Department personnel remain vigilant for their own safety, as well as securing the safety of all Virginians we have taken an oath to serve and protect,” Flaherty goes on to state.
U.S. Representatives Barbara Comstock and Bob Goodlatte also issued statements about the Dallas attack.
“Our men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities so we all can remain safe,” Comstack stated in an email. “The coordinated and targeted attack on police officers in a crowded public setting is unprecedented and shocking. We mourn the five Dallas officers who lost their lives and pray for the officers who are wounded, and we stand united in our support for our police and providing them the support they need to do their dangerous and challenging work.”
Goodlatte stated by email, “Too many people have lost their lives this week due to senseless acts of violence. Last night’s attack on Dallas police officers, leaving seven injured and five dead, is an attack on all of us. I mourn the loss of these brave officers’ lives, pray for the injured, and stand united with the law enforcement community.”
Goodlatte went on to state: “I also mourn the loss of life in Baton Rouge and St. Paul earlier this week. More can and must be done to strengthen police accountability and the relationship between police officers and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. But one thing is clear: violent retaliation against the police cannot be the manner in which we as Americans respond to officer-involved shootings.”
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org