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'Our Hearts Are Broken': Remembering DART Transit Officers

Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer Brent Thompson, one of five Dallas police officers fatally shot in a sniper attack July 7 during a protest in the city’s downtown, was the first DART officer killed in the line of duty; the agency founded the police department in 1989

“Brent was one of our finest,” DART President/Executive Gary Thomas said. “When the shooting started, his first priority was to take care of the protestors and take care of our customers. He lived the creed of service before self."

Thompson, 43, who joined the DART police force in 2009, was a patrol and rail officer. On the evening of the shooting, he was working in downtown Dallas’ Central Business District at Rosa Parks Plaza, a DART transit center.

Not every transit officer is well-suited for such an assignment, said DART Police Chief James Spiller in news reports. “It takes a special person to be down there, we have a lot of persons with different attitudes and, you know, it’s just a different group of people that hang out around that area,” he said. Thompson was “very friendly, courteous, polite, professional,” Spiller said.

He was “engaging, but yet able to fully execute his duties as a police officer, and didn’t always necessarily resort to the police-type approach,” Spiller said, adding that the officer was always smiling with a kind word to share. “That’s why we had him down there.”

The night of the shooting Thompson and the other officers “ran to the gunfire, ran to the incident to deal with that, to protect the protesters, ironically, and everyone,” said Morgan Lyons, DART assistant vice president, external relations, and chair, APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee.

“As you can imagine, our hearts are broken,” DART said on its website. “This is something that touches every part of our organization. We have received countless expressions of support and sympathy from around the world through the evening. We are grateful for every message.”

Three DART officers were wounded in the gunfire, receiving non-life-threatening injuries. All have since been released from Dallas area hospitals. They are Misty McBride, 39; Jesus Retana, 32; and Elmar Cannon, 44.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and Acting President & CEO Richard A. White issued a joint statement the following day: “It was with a very heavy heart that the American Public Transportation Association and its transit members learned about the shooting in Dallas last night. We mourn the loss of innocent life and send our prayers and thoughts to the officers, including the DART officers, and their families. We have reached out to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit to extend our condolences on behalf of the public transportation industry.”

Thompson was remembered by many friends and longtime colleagues: “Everyone remembers him as a great guy.” “Calm and down to earth.” “A great officer.” “Someone who was clearly ­committed to service.”

Thompson, a Texas native, was a newlywed who married a fellow DART public transit officer in June and had six children and two grandchildren. “He was in great spirits from his recent marriage,” Spiller said.

According to Thompson’s LinkedIn profile and news reports, he served in the Marine Corps from 1991-1994. Previous to his DART tenure, he worked in local police departments and at ­DynCorp International, where he was a contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping to train Iraqi police in the ­Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Brief profiles of the wounded DART officers follow:

Misty McBride, a DART officer for six years, previously worked at the Dallas County Jail for the Sheriff’s Department. A civilian who was in the area during the shootings credited McBride with saving his life. “The officer, the lady officer, seen the gunfire, tried to run over and help us and ended up being shot,” he reported to local news. “She saved my life.”

Jesus Retana is a Dallas native who began working for the DART police department in 2006. He previously worked in technology. Gary Thomas, DART president and executive director, said he visited with Retana and McBride at the hospital. “I told them we’re thinking of them. We’re praying for them and we’re here to support them.”

Elmar Cannon joined the DART police force in 2009. On his Facebook page, Cannon expressed support for raising awareness about mental health and suicide rates among veterans.

DART previously had suspended service at the Rosa Parks Plaza and other affected areas, but fully restored all service at 5 a.m. July 12. The agency has set up a fund to honor Thompson. Find details here.

The Dallas Police Department (DPD) officers killed are Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and Michael Krol. Three DPD officers and two civilians who were wounded are recovering.

Information in this article was drawn from various news reports and with the assistance of DART.

A DART patrol car became a tribute to the fallen officers.

Photo courtesy of Morgan Lyons


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