By | Jack Douglas Jr. and Ginger Allen
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The I-Team has learned the officers assigned to the rally in downtown Dallas last July - where five officers were killed and nine wounded - were told not to wear certain heavy protective gear because it would make them look too "militaristic."
"They were told not to wear their heavy gear," which, if worn, may have "stopped some of those rounds," Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, told the I-Team.
Mata, in an exclusive interview, said that, while all of the officers were believed to have been wearing standard-issued protective vests, many had with them better protective gear – stronger, thicker body armor and helmets – but had to keep them in their patrol vehicles.
"They didn't want the police department to look militaristic to the community, look aggressive, incite any type of trouble," he said.
For the same reasons, according to Mata, the officers were not allowed to "arm up" with powerful long rifles – a weapon much like the one Micah Johnson had when he ambushed them, marking one of deadliest attacks on law enforcement in history.
At a time of fever-pitch emotions, the rally – meant to protest fatal police shootings of black men in other parts of the country – was a peaceful march until Johnson, a black man trained in military combat, opened fire.
Authorities say Johnson was targeting only white officers. He was later killed when police detonated an explosive device on a robot sent to where he was holed up.
Mata told the I-Team the protective gear and rifles left in patrol vehicles that night may have saved lives and prevented severe injuries.
"A lot of those shots, and a lot of those wounds …were chest shots, lower abdomen wound shots, and those heavy vests would have covered them," he said.
The officers' inability to wear the additional gear has angered officers and their families, Mata said.
He said the widow of slain Officer Lorne Ahrens later gave her husband's heavy vest – unused that night – to his partner.
"His wife felt that Lorne would want it to go to another officer," Mata said.
He added that officers believe the decision to leave some protective gear behind came from then-Police Chief David Brown.
Brown, who has since retired, written a book and joined a New York City-based security firm, could not be reached for comment. The Dallas police administration also declined the I-Team's multiple requests for a comment.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings however, did comment:
"The Dallas Police Department has taken numerous steps to better protect our officers since the unprecedented ambush attack on July 7, 2016, both through the purchase of equipment and thanks to generous donations from the community. Cost is not and should not be a barrier in our effort to safeguard our city's protectors.
Regarding Dallas police facility upgrades, I continue to be frustrated with the slow pace of those enhancements. It's been more than two years since the shooting at Jack Evans Police Headquarters and we should have completed more work there and at our seven patrol stations by now. City Manager T.C. Broadnax has made this a top priority since he took over and the process finally appears to be moving along thanks to him and his revamped team."
If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him at email@example.com. If you want to reach CBS 11′s Investigative reporter Ginger Allen, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
for more features.