DALLAS - Dallas Police are still looking for the suspects in a drive-by shooting outside the department’s South Central Patrol Substation in Oak Cliff early Sunday morning.
Police aren’t saying how many suspects they are looking for and couldn’t see where the shots came from.
Assistant Police Chief Randy Blankenbaker says at least one of the shots came very close to hitting an officer.
"It appears the shooter initially directed gunfire at a marked squad car in front of the station that was occupied by an officer assigned to station security,” he said.
The shooting shows just how vulnerable Dallas police officers are, no matter where they are.
"Now we have an environment where these guys don't feel safe coming to work," said Dallas Police Association President Michael Mata. "It's not going out to calls. We all know it's a dangerous job and what we signed up for. But just being in your own home at your police station or sitting in a squad car, now your life is at risk there?"
Police believe nine rounds were fired and possibly three hit the building.
“I don't know if they were targeting the officer, or targeting the station. It really doesn't make a difference because the officer was in the line of fire and it's a shame we're here,” said Mata.
Investigators combed the area for hours, looking for shell casings and documenting the damage to the building. Dallas police stations have been targeted before. In 2015 a man shot at, and planted explosives, outside DPD headquarters. He was later chased down and killed by police.
“They think it's OK to drive by a police station and shoot it up, and not care who dies,” said Mata, “We have to make public safety a priority, we have to do that again.”
Mata says a simple fix would be to add fencing and a gate to the police parking lots.
"Every fire station has fencing," he said. "I don't understand why the police are any different."
It's a request Dallas police union leaders hand-delivered to the mayor's office nearly two years ago. Right after a gunman opened fire on Dallas Police Headquarters, the city installed bulletproof glass and paid a consultant to make other security recommendations.
"It's been sitting in a drawer in my office for over a year," said Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston. " It's a $19 million plan. We don't even need that much to make significant improvements.That's an all-in number."
Kingston agrees with Mata. He says the money to do it would have been a bond package he wanted to be put before voters in May. But a majority of the council decided to put off the bond election."
"We've really sent a bad message to our police. I would not be surprised if they've felt very unsupported right now," Kingston said. "It's been two years. What are we doing?"
Police still don’t know why the shooter or shooters may have targeted the station, but a bill on the table in the capitol could increase the penalties for people who purposely commit crimes against first responders and make it a hate crime. That bill covers police officers, firefighters and EMTs. State Repl. Jason Vallalba is the bill’s main backer.
“This is a way to prevent or hopefully help prevent these kinds of random attacks on our police officers merely because they're wearing a blue uniform,” said Vallalba.
The case is being investigated as aggravated assault on a public servant. Criminal defense attorneys say that usually carries a penalty of 5 years to life in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence could be bumped up to a minimum of 15 years if the new hate crime law is passed.