Funerals begin for slain Dallas police officers

DALLAS, Texas – Funerals were held Wednesday, July 13, for two of the 5 officers killed in last week's sniper shooting in Dallas, one day after US President Barack Obama addressed a public memorial service honoring the slain police.

Onlookers paused to pay their respects to Lorne Ahrens of the Dallas Police Department and Brent Thompson, an officer with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, as public funeral processions snaked along area roads.

A Catholic mass was held for a third officer, Michael Smith, whose funeral is planned for Thursday, July 14.

The men were among five officers shot to death last week during an ambush by a black gunman who said he was acting in revenge for recent shootings of black Americans by white police officers.

The gunman, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, was killed during last Thursday's (July 7) standoff.

During the funeral service at the cavernous Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, fellow officer Debbie Taylor described Ahrens, 48, as a "gentle giant" who "strived to be the best, most knowledgeable officer."

Police comprised most of the audience at the suburban Dallas church, which seats 7,000.

Eddie Coffey, who studied at the police academy at the same time as Ahrens, recalled his tattooed friend's love of heavy-metal music.

At a concurrent service attended by about 3,000 people at the Potter's House Church in Dallas, slain officer Thompson, 43, was remembered as a "family man" and practical joker.

Police believe Thompson died trying to save Ahrens during the shootout.

"I would have done anything in my power to have been there with Brent in those final moments, even if the outcome would have been the same," fellow officer Joseph Kyser said.

Funeral services have not yet been held for two other slain officers, Patricio Zamarripa, 32, known as Patrick, to be buried Saturday, July 16, and Michael Krol, for whom services are still pending.

A majority of Americans – 69% – think that race relations in the United States are mostly bad, according to a nationwide CBS News/New York Times poll released Wednesday.

The survey suggests that views are even more negative than they were in 1992, when the figure stood at 68% following the Los Angeles riots, which were triggered by the Rodney King police brutality case verdict.

Speaking to a grieving city and nation on Tuesday, July 12, Obama called for unity, amid growing racial tension following a series of recent racially charged shootings involving the police. –