DART bus driver Donald Washington may have been one of the first people to witness Dallas shooter Micah Johnson arriving downtown, less than an hour before opening fire and killing five officers Thursday night.
Between 8:20 and 8:25 p.m., Washington stopped his bus at the corner of Elm Street and Harwood Street to drop off a passenger. He immediately noticed a black Chevrolet SUV in his rearview mirror traveling at “a high rate of speed” westbound on Elm Street. Washington said, the driver ran a red light and was swerving erratically.
“I noticed that vehicle actually proceeding on down westbound on Elm Street,” Washington said. “It made a left turn on Lamar [Street]. I lost the vehicle at that point.”
El Centro College sits at the corner of Elm Street and Lamar Street.
A black Chevrolet SUV matching Washington’s description was later recorded on video, parked outside El Centro College with its emergency flashers blinking. Sources confirm to FOX 4, that was the shooter’s vehicle.
Washington said investigators are reviewing video from his bus to help piece together a timeline of the suspect’s movements.
Hours later, Washington returned downtown to help move people away from danger.
As negotiators were trying to end the standoff with the suspect at El Centro College, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered outside the 7-11 convenience store on the corner of Ross Avenue and Griffin Street.
The crowd was face-to-face with a line of armed officers standing in formation outside the store’s darkened windows. Video recorded by a FOX 4 crew that night shows some in the crowd shouting and taunting police. Others were simply stranded and trying to find a way home.
DART scrambled to organize transportation to get people out of the area.
“They were asking if someone wanted to go down and pick those people up and transport them to CBD East [bus terminal],” Washington said.
“I volunteered to go down, and I asked one of the officers on location at CBD East, ‘Is someone going to escort me?’ He said no. So, I was pretty much on my own, not having any clue as to what I was going to be faced with.”
Washington turned to his faith in that moment.
“I thought about the 23rd Psalm,” he said. “‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.’”
When Washington said he arrived to a tense scene at the 7-11.
“It was a very terrible experience,” Washington said. “You got a parking lot of people ranting and raving, taunting at officers and a lot of frustration was boiling. Tempers was boiling.”
Washington began moving through the crowd, trying to cajole and convince folks to get on the bus.
“This guy in a red shirt, I wanted to get him on the bus, because he kept taunting the officers,” Washington said. “He would run up to the officers. The officers [were] just standing there with their rifles. They wasn’t blinking or winking.”
Washington made several trips between the 7-11 and CBD East.
Finally, on one trip, Washington convinced the man in the red shirt to get on the bus.
“I got the bird in my hand,” he said. “I take off with him.”
What Washington didn’t know then, but would later learn, is that DART police officer Brent Thompson, who had come to his aid on buses before, was a victim in the ambush.
“He didn’t take you to jail unless it was warranted the situation,” Washington recalled. “Officer Thompson was a man who would reason with you.”
Long after the crowd at 7-11 dispersed that night, Washington remained downtown. It was not until Friday night that he returned home, but when he did, sleep did not come.
Washington said, he stared at the ceiling fan instead.
“Every time that fan turned, there was an officer down,” Washington said. “Every spin that I looked up, there was an officer spinning over my head, whether he was deceased or wounded.”