Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked Americans to stay calm and come together in the face of “unfathomable tragedy” and “a week of heartbreaking loss” in a Friday afternoon press conference, hours after sniper fire left five police officers dead and nine people wounded at a protest in Dallas. The Thursday night shooting shattered an otherwise peaceful demonstration in response to the police killings of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, earlier this week.*
Americans across our country are feeling a sense of helplessness and fear. … But the answer must not be violence. The answer is never violence. Rather, the answer, our answer, all our answer must be action. Calm, peaceful, collaborative, and determined action. We must continue working to build trust between communities and law enforcement. We must continue working to guarantee every person in this country equal justice under the law. And we must take a hard look at the ease with which wrong doers can get their hands on deadly weapons and the frequency with which they use them.
Lynch cautioned against reflexive “bitterness and rancor,” instead urging the country to “embrace the difficult work, but the important work—the vital work—of finding a path forward together.”
Lynch explained that several Department of Justice agencies—including the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; and U.S. Attorney’s Office—are involved in the investigation. She also cited the DOJ civil rights investigation into the killing of Sterling in Louisiana and federal assistance to local authorities investigating the police shooting of Castile in Minnesota.
Lynch did not refer, either indirectly or by name, to Micah Xavier Johnson, the 25-year-old suspected shooter and Dallas resident who was killed by a police bomb robot after a standoff early Friday morning.
She identified Dallas Area Rapid Transit authority officer Brent Thompson as among the dead but said that the names of the four other fallen officers had not yet been released. She mourned the victims, saying:
[T]hose we’ve lost this week have come from different backgrounds, different neighborhoods, but today, they’re mourned by officers, by residents, by family and friends, by men and women and children who loved them.
Lynch also addressed the protesters at the Dallas demonstration directly:
To those who seek to improve our country through peaceful protest and protected speech, I want you to know that your voice is important. Do not be discouraged by those who would use your lawful actions as a cover for their heinous violence. We will continue to safeguard your Constitutional rights and to work with you in the difficult mission of building a better nation and a brighter future.
*Correct, July 8, 2016: This post originally misspelled Philando Castile’s first name.