People take part in a prayer vigil at Thanksgiving Square on Friday in Dallas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

People take part in a prayer vigil at Thanksgiving Square on Friday in Dallas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Snohomish County officials reflect on race, violence in Dallas

EVERETT — John Lovick couldn’t sleep Thursday night.

Like millions of Americans, he was trying to process the horror unfolding in Dallas: a sniper ambushed and killed five law enforcement officers and injured several others. They were assigned to keep the peace at a protest of police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. The black gunman reportedly said he wanted to kill white officers.

Lovick, who is black, spent 31 years with the Washington State Patrol. He later served as the Snohomish County sheriff. His son is a police officer in Los Angeles.

In June 2015, when a South Carolina man allegedly trying to ignite a race war shot and killed nine people at a prayer service at a black church, Lovick asked the pastor at his own church in Mill Creek if he could arrange talks within the congregation.

Conversations and patience are needed now more than ever, Lovick said.

“The answer to what I believe to be the problem is holding people accountable for their actions,” he said. “A rational person will wait for the facts. This person clearly was not a rational person. Executing police officers, shooting police officers only exacerbates the problem.”

Across the county, community support for police took many forms Friday. In Edmonds, cookies and a half-dozen bouquets of flowers were dropped off at the police station.

Stanwood’s Ralph Fry, 78, a police chaplain for 30 years, sent a text message of encouragement late Thursday to Sheriff Ty Trenary.

Fry wanted the sheriff to know that others recognize the hurt and they care. Sometimes the hurt comes from knowing that violence can occur anywhere, he said.

It is up to everyone to look into their own hearts and think about their beliefs, and to love their neighbors, he said.

“I understand the negativity that people feel when they feel oppressed,” he said. “I care about that, but these officers were trying to help and the value of life really wasn’t important to somebody in those moments. It’s heartbreaking.”

The violence in Dallas touches on a number of social issues driving national conversations, including policing, race, disparity and firearms.

Not talking about racial issues enough has “created a monster that we’re having a difficult time dealing with as a country, even in the Northwest,” said Janice Greene, president of the Snohomish County NAACP. That is happening even as people of color are advancing in business, education and economics, she said. It can be hard for people to accept that racism still happens, even here, in “over and covert” ways.

It’s easier to think of someone who is different than you as an enemy than it is to admit that all humans have some biases, and those biases influence social systems, Greene said. Too often, black men who are killed by police are portrayed as being “not being worthy to live,” she said.

The national stories about violence and shootings at times feel like a leaking faucet, she said. “Drip, drip, drip, over and over again.”

Honest, civil conversations are needed to breed constructive changes, not yelling across the divide, she said.

Trenary said no words can describe what happened in Dallas.

“These horrible acts of violence and terrorist-type attacks on law enforcement, as well as the angry rhetoric, will only deepen the divide between the police and the communities they serve,” he said.

Trenary is frustrated by what he sees as a rush to judgment about police shootings based on social media and news coverage before all the facts are gathered.

“This fervor from some public figures is fanning the flames and people are dying,” he said.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said law enforcement officers today face some of the most significant social issues of the past 30 years.

“The incidents of this past week underscore the gravity of these challenges and the need to address them directly and constructively,” he said. “It is a time for unity and those of us who are leaders in law enforcement must collaborate with the community to bridge the issues, not divide us.”

On Friday, Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan was thinking about the outrage and social movements that followed the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles in 1991. For decades, law enforcement has worked to address and prevent those kinds of problems, he said. He was telling his officers to remember that building community trust is the basis of good policing.

“It just seems the sore healed over into a scab and become an open sore again,” he said.

Friday was supposed to be a vacation day for Monroe Police Sgt. Brian Johnston. Instead, he spent the day trying to figure out how to help in Dallas and close to home.

Johnston is president of the state’s Behind The Badge Foundation, which supports families of police officers who have died or been seriously injured in the line of duty.

The nonprofit was reaching out to the families it works with in Washington state.

“Some of our survivors, this hits very close to home,” Johnston said.

He pointed to a 2009 shooting in Pierce County, when four Lakewood officers were killed by a lone gunman while they got coffee before the start of their shift. Authorities say the shooter singled them out and spared employees and other customers.

“We always think about grief as this journey,” Johnston said. “It is not linear. It can cross back over upon itself.”

The state chapter of Behind the Badge also was discussing what it would do for the officers’ families in Dallas. It was planning to make a donation to help with memorial costs and to send officers in a show of support.

Lovick said he hopes something can be done to defuse the “us versus them” feelings that lead to tragedies such as Dallas.

The solution, he believes, can begin simply enough.

“We need to start talking,” he said.

Reporter Diana Hefley contributed to this story.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446;

NAACP vigil

The NAACP of Snohomish County has scheduled a “Stop the Hate and Do Something” vigil starting at 2 p.m. Sunday outside the Snohomish County Courthouse, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett.

“This will be a peaceful event with the purpose of mourning the recently slain African American men and police officers,” the group said in a news release. “The event will also be used as an opportunity to launch a community wide initiative to prevent senseless killings in our local community.”

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