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Dallas, A Grieving City, Honors Slain Officers; Awaits Obama's Visit


Dallas held a candlelight vigil for its five fallen officers last night killed by a gunman last week as they protected a Black Lives Matter demonstration. The grieving city awaits a visit today from President Obama. And some people in that crowd know what they want the president to say. NPR's John Burnett reports from Dallas.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: As the blazing sun sank in the West, people filled up the plaza in front of Dallas' famous City Hall, the inverted pyramid designed by architect I.M. Pei. Before a stern police honor guard, the families of the five dead officers sat and listened to eulogies for their beloveds. Here is Dallas transit police chief James Spiller.


JAMES SPILLER: We must have that discussion about race in America. We must support our police officers in Texas. We must lead America in protecting and supporting our police officers.

BURNETT: One of the most moving tributes came from a comrade who served on a narcotics task force with slain officer Lorne Ahrens, badge number 81-93. He was described as a tall, hulking, loyal, hardworking cop. Here's Senior Corporal Jaime Castro talking about one of many nights he and Ahrens spent together, their adrenaline pumping as they prepared to raid a dope house.


JAIME CASTRO: Lorne then grabbed me by the shoulder and said, don't worry, brother. I got your back. I'll take a bullet for you.

BURNETT: Out in the crowd last night listening intently was Holly Foy and her 9-year-old son, Jessie. As it happens, she's the wife of a current Dallas policeman. The five officer deaths have shaken her and police spouses all across the city. She has a message for the president. She does not think he has had law enforcement's back.

HOLLY FOY: I would just like to know that we have the support of the president for our police officers, especially when they put their lives on the line like they do every day, day in and day out. And we know that, you know, when he walks out that door, there may be a possibility that he may not come back.

BURNETT: Obama and former President George W. Bush, a Dallas resident, will speak at an interfaith memorial service here later today and meet with the victims' families. John Burnett, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.