Dallas police detain a driver after several police officers were shot in downtown Dallas, Thursday, July 7, 2016. Snipers apparently shot police officers during protests and some of the officers are dead, the city’s police chief said in a statement. AP Photo/LM Otero

The shootings started during a peaceful rally against U.S. police killings.

Updated July 8 at 6:15 p.m.

As demonstrators in cities across the U.S. marched in protest Thursday night against the police shootings of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a peaceful protest winding down in downtown Dallas was interrupted by sniper fire. At least 12 police officers were shot, according to Dallas Police Department Chief David Brown. Five of those shootings were fatal.

“At 8:58 p.m., our worst nightmare happened,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a press conference late Thursday night.

The shooting began from elevated positions above the protest. Police exchanged fire with one suspect at a garage at the downtown El Centro College. That person is dead, “blown up by a bomb robot dispatched by police,” Chief Brown said at a news conference early Friday, correcting previous reports that this suspect had killed himself. Experts believe this was the first time police used remote bomb-delivery technology to deliver lethal force.

In an hours-long standoff with police, the slain suspect had told negotiators “that the end is coming and he's going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement, and that there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown,” Brown said. “So we are being very careful in our tactics so we don't injure or put any of our officers in harm's way including the citizens of Dallas in negotiating further.”

Sweeps for other explosives were made early Friday morning, and none were found, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The suspect also told negotiators that he “was upset about Black Lives Matter,” Brown said. “He was upset about recent police shootings” this week in Louisiana and Minnesota. Brown continued, “He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” (It’s not clear from this relayed information whether the deceased shooter meant he was angry at Black Lives Matter or the backlash against this movement.)

Friday afternoon, the Dallas Police Department officially identified the alleged gunman as Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old resident of the Dallas area. Initially, three suspects were in custody in connection to the incident. It’s unclear if Brandon Waller, a man arrested on “unrelated weapons charges” at the scene of the crime, was one of these suspects. Law enforcement believes that Johnson was acting alone and had no ties to terrorist or other groups, according to the New York Times:

Mr. Johnson, an Army veteran who lived in the Dallas area, apparently had no criminal record in Texas. Investigators have not turned up any evidence that he had ties to the Black Lives Matter movement or to political groups. The official said that Justice officials have reached out to the Pentagon to obtain Mr. Johnson’s military records.

According to the latest police update, detectives found a variety of dangerous items at Johnson’s home: bomb making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics. They’re investigating his social connections and journal entries for further information.  

Of the slain officers, four came from the Dallas Police Department, according to the AP. The fifth deceased officer was from Dallas Area Rapid Transit. DART identified this individual via Twitter as Brent Thompson, 43, a member of the transit agency’s police force since 2009, and the first DART officer killed in the line of duty. The Dallas Morning News is reporting on the victims as more information becomes available.

Three of the seven officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries worked at DART, and five at DPD. Two civilians were also reportedly injured. All are expected to recover.

​In a statement to reporters Friday afternoon, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the way forward must not be violence, but rather "calm, peaceful, collaborative and determined action." "To all Americans," she said, "I ask you not to allow the events of this week to precipitate a new normal in our country. I ask you to turn to each other, not against each other as we move forward."

The shootings took place in the heart of downtown Dallas. Since the days of Occupy Wall Street, this area of downtown has been a frequent site of protests and activism. The attack was just blocks from one of Dallas's busiest transit stations, and just a few yards from the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza. These locations and others around the downtown area are shut down as a crime scene as of Friday morning. Police have urged Dallas residents to check dallascitynews.net to know where to avoid. Limited DART train and bus services are running through downtown as of Friday morning.

Videos emerging from the scene show protesters fleeing and police officers taking cover behind their vehicles. A man who identifies himself as a professional photographer on Facebook captured live video of the scene as the officers took fire from above.

The Associated Press posted this raw video of people fleeing from gunfire:

Roughly 800 protesters and 100 police officers had been present at the rally, according to the Dallas Police Department. Earlier Thursday night the DPD tweeted photos of officers peacefully mingling with protesters at the demonstration.

According to the AP, Thursday “appeared to be the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”

This post will be updated.

George Joseph, Shauna Miller, Laura Bliss, Tanvi Misra, and Natasha Balwit contributed to this report.

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