Ceremony marks two years since downtown Dallas ambush shooting

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Officers killed in the July 7 Downtown Dallas ambush shooting were honored at a ceremony on Friday.

Saturday marks two years since five officers were fatally shot in the downtown shooting during what was a peaceful protest. About 200 people, including family members of the victims, attended the event held outside Dallas PD headquarters.

The service was brief but touching. It was less about how they died and more about how the officers lived and what the community has learned from a night no one will ever forget.

DART Officer Brent Thompson was killed, along with Dallas PD officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Patrick Zamarripa. Nine other officers were wounded along with two civilians. The gunman was killed after an hours-long standoff by a Dallas police robot that had been equipped with an explosive device.

"July 7, 2016, stands as one of the deadliest events in law enforcement history," said Dallas PD Chief Renee Hall. "It was also this community's finest hour."

Paulette Thompson is the mother of DART Officer Brent Thompson. She was moved by the remembrance.

“And we get to see the families of the other officers, and we became friends with those. And they just understand how you're feeling. And it helps,” she said. “Some days, it’s just day to day. And then losing his son made it… it’s just been really hard.”

People of all denominations prayed and reflected on the reason for the gathering.

“People, places and things are shaped in tragedy, but it does not define us,” Hall said. “We recognize where we were. It was a tragic event. We move forward. We learn what we can do differently, how we can better serve the community and how we can better protect the city of Dallas as a whole.”

Rogelio Santander Jr was also honored on Fallen Officers Day in Dallas. He was killed in April by a man he and others were attempting to arrest in a Home Depot.

“This wasn’t just about July 7th,” said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata. “This was about every police officer who's given his life in the city of Dallas. What we did today here was not mourn them. We needed to celebrate their lives. They're heroes. Not because how they died. They're heroes because of how they lived and protected the public.”

The gunman was killed inside El Centro College. He was angry at the violence against black men by police across the country.

DART bus driver Don Washington was the last to see the shooter as he sped by him in his SUV before stopping outside El Centro College and carrying out his anger against police. Hours later, Washington volunteered to drive a bus to Griffin and Ross streets and carry people out of downtown to try to defuse tensions between police and people in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven.

“The last two years have been off-and-on a task of trying to recover,” Washington said.

Chief Hall is grateful to the citizens who have stood behind police.

“I have never seen this kind of support anywhere. They are resilient. They are 100 percent behind the police department,” she said. “It is represented by the number of people who are out here today to support the police department. We thank and love them so very much.”

There was a final balloon release from the department’s command staff. Each balloon was inscribed with a message that said “You are loved. You are missed. You are remembered.”