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'I just felt it in my heart': People flock to police headquarters to honour slain officers

Catherine Johnston, torn up by the deaths of five officers in the sniper attack in Dallas, brought flowers to add to the pile spilling off the hood of two parked cruisers that have become a makeshift memorial outside the busy police station.

Flowers, cards and offerings spill across parked cruisers after shooting leaves 5 officers dead

Melvin Lopez brought his five-year old son Kevin to Dallas police headquarters to honour the officers shot and killed by Micah Johnson. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Catherine Johnston, torn up by the slaying of five officers in Dallas, added to the pile of flowers spilling across the hood and all around two cruisers parked outside police headquarters on Saturday.

The vehicles, parked outside the busy police building, have come to symbolize the wave of support and emotion for the force.

"These are brave people, and they protect and serve us," Johnston said, her voice filled with emotion. "And what happened to them is just unthinkable and it's very sad."

"I've always had respect for the police and just needed to come down to honour them," she said. Johnston, who was raised in Dallas and now lives about 45 minutes outside the city, said she found herself crying over and over again Thursday night and Friday.

"I just knew it was the right thing for me. I brought flowers. I just felt it in my heart."

Catherine Johnston, wiping away tears, says she felt compelled to come to police headquarters to offer her support. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

The cruisers have become a makeshift memorial for those killed in the attack, and the force as a whole. Both have been smothered in flowers, flags, teddy bears and cards offering condolences, prayers and messages of support for the police.

The cruisers have become a focal point for the outpouring of support police say they've received. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

"No words can ever say what the citizens of our city want to truly say to you," reads one of the blue 'We unite' cards that have been plastered on one side of the two police cruisers.  'We love and appreciate your bravery."

The outpouring from the community certainly helps with the long and difficult healing process, according to Dallas police detective Ira Carter, who says he knew all of the officers who were killed.

Dallas police detective Ira Carter says it's 'empowering to see this many people come out and give you love and support.' (Mark Gollom/CBC)

 "People think citizens don't really care but they do." he said. In Dallas, he said, police try to build a bridge between the community and the department.

"As police officers here in Dallas, we're not surprised,  but you know it is empowering to see this many people come out and give you love and support."

Searches, confusion at headquarters

Yet the scene at police headquarters late Saturday evening was a reminder of just how on edge the force remains following the shooting spree unleashed by a Micah Johnson.

Around 5:30 p.m local time on Saturday, police shut down part of the street in front of police headquarters, yet, oddly, allowed people and the media to continue to gather at the memorial.  Few details were offered but unconfirmed reports suggested that a masked man had been seen in the area and that shots had been fired. 

Police shut down the street in front of headquarters to conduct a search of their parking garage for a suspicious person. No one was found. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Police knocked down those reports, but did confirm later they were conducting a systematic search of the police parking garage for a suspicious person. After an initial search, which included members of the SWAT team, and a secondary search by the K-9 unit, nothing suspicious was found.

Before the confusion Saturday evening, people were streaming in to see the police headquarters memorial, some alone, others with friends or family.

People have been flocking down to police headquarters to drop off flowers, flags, teddy bears and cards and messages of support. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

"With everything going on lately I don't feel that the police are getting the support that they need. I just came out to show my support," said Melvin Lopez, a  veteran who came with his five-year-old son Kevin.

Dallas police sergeants. Amanda Renteria, left, and Laura Browning right, lay a bundle of flowers and candles at the base of a Dallas Police Department cruiser that is serving as a makeshift memorial outside of police headquarters. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

"In a way I felt it was my duty. A veteran, a civilian, I felt it's my duty to show my support."

He said it's been difficult to try to explain to Kevin what has happened, but he said he has also tried to make it clear to him there are still a lot of good people. 

He says he wanted Kevin by his side so that that he has a "better understanding of the importance of the job, what the police are here for."

Dallas Police Department spokeswoman Sr. Cpl. Monica Cordova said the force has been overwhelmed by the well- wishes they have received from the community and through social media, including thousands of emails.

Asked how the force is dealing with the loss, she paused for a few seconds, silenced briefly by emotion, and said simply: "We're dealing."

About the Author

Mark Gollom

Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

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