Members of Congress voiced their support for law enforcement — and raised concerns about potential fallout — after the fatal shootings of five police officers in Dallas during a “Black Lives Matter” protest.
Multiple media outlets reported shots were fired toward police during the protest, which was organized after the recent deaths of two black men elsewhere in the nation at the hands of police. Marches took place across the country Thursday night to protest those killings.
“I don’t think people ought to be retaliating against police officers in Dallas for what they perceive to be an injustice in another part of the country,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. “So, I just think it’s a very dangerous, potentially dangerous situation.”
Four Dallas police officers and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer were killed and seven were wounded, according to local media reports. One suspect was dead and three others were in custody early Friday.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in a statement late Thursday that it appeared that two snipers shot multiple police officers.
Tensions have been high across the nation following the two recent shootings by police.
Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed Wednesday evening by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. His girlfriend, Lavisha Reynolds, streamed the aftermath of the incident live on Facebook.
And Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on Tuesday. Louisiana Rep. Cedric L. Richmond called for a Justice Department inquiry into that shooting and an FBI spokesman later confirmed that an investigation was underway.
“Many questions have yet to be answered. But whatever their motivation, it is clear that the perpetrators of this vile act have an agenda of hatred,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Friday.
Cornyn was working late at the Capitol because of unusually late votes on the Senate floor, but was clearly keeping an eye on the breaking news in the Lone Star State.
“I think the FBI director and others have talked about the dangers of suggesting it’s OK for people to retaliate against police officers for perceived slights or injustices,” the Texas Republican said. “We’ll learn more, but certainly that raised concerns when I saw it.”
Many members of Congress were still working at the Capitol as the shootings in Dallas unfolded.
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, whose district includes parts of Dallas, told MSNBC he was watching developments from the District of Columbia. He said he was concerned that officers “let their guard down.”
Sessions said in a statement that he would continue to monitor developments.
“The men and women of the Dallas Police Department and the officers of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) selflessly run into harm’s way to protect the lives of other,” Ted Cruz, Texas’ junior GOP senator, said in a statement issued around 1:30 a.m. Friday.
Some lawmakers shared sympathies for Dallas officers on social media. New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte tweeted , “Tonight is a tragic reminder that our brave law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe.”
Gun control advocate Sen. Christopher S. Murphy expressed his frustration at yet another shooting in the U.S.
“Truly truly awful. My heart is breaking…again,” the Connecticut Democrat tweeted .
Congressional Democrats have been pushing for lawmakers to vote on gun control legislation in recent weeks.
Sen. Thom Tillis pointed to a piece of legislation that could gain traction after the Dallas shooting.
“We must support our law enforcement, and I will continue to support efforts like ‘The Thin Blue Line Act’ to strengthen the penalties for criminals who attempt to cause harm to our brave law enforcement officials and first responders,” the North Carolina Republican said in a statement.
Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey sponsored the legislation, which is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee. His bill would increase penalties for the killing or targeting of a law enforcement officer. For example, it would add the killing of local or state police officers as an “aggravating factor” when weighing the death penalty.
Jeremy Silk Smith contributed to this report.