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AG Loretta Lynch says Dallas shootings are "unfathomable tragedy"

Last Updated Jul 8, 2016 12:31 PM EDT

Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned on Friday the fatal Dallas shootings that led to the deaths of five police officers, calling it an "unfathomable tragedy."

Lynch said the Department of Justice -- including the FBI, the ATF and other agencies -- was "on the scene" working closely with state and local counterparts to assist with the investigation. The attorney general added that the DOJ was also there to help "heal a community."

"This has been a week of profound grief and heartbreaking loss," Lynch said. But, she cautioned, "to all Americans, I ask you, I implore you, do not let this week precipitate a new normal in this country."

On Thursday night, a peaceful demonstration in downtown Dallas turned deadly when dozens of shots rang out targeting law enforcement officials policing the area.

Lynch addressed the roots of the protest -- prompted in part by the police-involved shooting of two black men this week -- one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the other in Falcon Heights, Minnesota -- and noted that the DOJ was opening a civil rights investigation into Alton Sterling's death and providing assistance to local law enforcement.

"After the events of this week, Americans across the county are feeling a sense of helplessness, of uncertainty and of fear. These feelings are understandable and they are justified," she said. "But the answer must not be violence. The answer is never violence. Rather, the answer must be action: calm, peaceful, collaborative and determined action."

Lynch indirectly weighed in on the gun control debate as well, adding that "we must take a hard look at the ease with which wrongdoers can get their hands on deadly weapons and the frequency with which they use them."

For the families of those officers who lost their lives, Lynch said she was "heartbroken at this loss."

"The Department of Justice will do all we can to support you in the days ahead," she promised. "To those who seek to improve our country through peaceful protest and protected speech: I want you to know that your voice is important. Do not be discouraged by those who use your lawful actions as cover for their heinous violence. We will continue to safeguard your constitutional rights and to work with you in the difficult mission of building a better nation and a brighter future."

At a NATO summit in Poland, President Obama called the attack in Dallas "vicious, calculated and despicable," and he said he told Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings he was "horrified" at what had happened.

In honor of the Dallas victims, the president ordered Friday for flags to fly at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds.