Thursday marks 6 years since 5 officers killed in Downtown Dallas ambush

Five Dallas officers killed in the line of duty on July 7, 2016 were remembered Thursday during a quiet ceremony.

It's been six years since Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Patrick Zamarripa and DART officer Brent Thompson were killed during a social justice protest in Downtown Dallas.

The ceremony to mark the occasion was smaller in scale compared with the first five years. Fellow officers gathered to say a few words and set out a wreath at the Fallen Officers Memorial.

Retired DART driver Donald Washington visited the memorial to honor Thompson, who was his friend. He said he was driving downtown the night of the ambush and helped bus people out of the area. 

"I come back every year pretty much to help me believe that what happened 7/7/16 was actually true. As far as I'm concerned, it felt like a nightmare," Washington said. "Officer Thompson came to my rescue many nights, many times. He always had my back."

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the men and women of the Dallas Police Department are still changed by July 7, 2016.

"There is not an officer here who passed that day who is not affected by it," he said.

It was one of the deadliest attacks on law enforcement in the country that happened during an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Downtown Dallas.

MORE: July 7, 2016 Downtown Dallas Police Ambush Coverage

The gunman was later killed by an explosive device delivered by a robot inside El Centro College.

[REPORTER: "When DPD officers cover protests, is July 7th always in the back of their mind?"]

"I don’t see how it could not be, to be vigilant in that manner is something that our officers need to do," Garcia responded. "And so I would say, absolutely, it's in the back of every officer’s, every commander’s mind, about what could occur and then thinking ahead as to what actions need to be taken."

Just days after a gunman opened fire at a 4th of July parade in Illinois, it is a difficult reminder about the increased frequency of mass shootings. 

"We can’t train for every aspect. When those types of incidents occur, we need plans to save as many lives as we can, difficult to say we will be able to eliminate that type of threat, not realistic to say that, but we will train, with more resources, more surveillance, and have officers in positions to stop a threat," Garcia said. "Those are things this police department continues to work on." 

Chief Garcia said the five officers who gave their lives working to protect others July 7, 2016, provide an example for the department today.

"I can’t train bravery. There’s not a police chief in America that can train bravery, but if anyone wants to see bravery, they need to not look too much past [July 7, 2016] to see what bravery looks like," he said.

DPD also plans to host a barbecue for the fallen officers' families.