To those who knew and loved them, they were larger than life.
The former semi-pro football player who wrestled playfully with his children. The Navy veteran who had served three tours in Iraq. The talented basketball player from Michigan who had always wanted to be a cop. The transit agency officer, a newlywed, known for his huge smile. The 28-year veteran of the police force.
Here are remembrances of the five officers killed Thursday in a sniper attack in downtown Dallas.
It was hard to miss Lorne Ahrens, in uniform or out.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound former semi-pro football player could turn heads just by showing up, said his father-in-law, Charlie Buckingham.
“He was a big ol’ boy,” Buckingham said Friday, the day after Ahrens was killed in the sniper attack on Dallas police officers. “Big as he is, just walking down the street he cut a real figure. I’m sure it helped him in his work.”
Dallas police said Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens was a 14-year veteran of the department.
He was part of a law enforcement twosome — Katrina, his wife and Buckingham’s daughter, is a Dallas police detective. The couple have a 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.
Ahrens may have quelled potential resistance with his bulk, a shaved head and heavily tattooed arms. In one 2003 incident, according to court documents, he sprinted fast enough to tackle a suspected cocaine dealer running away from a bust. According to testimony, the suspect had dropped a .38 caliber pistol, and an SKS assault rifle was found in the house.
Earlier, Ahrens had been an officer in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to a state database, policing in one of the country’s biggest metro areas from 1991 to 2002. He grew up near Los Angeles and still has family in Simi Valley. He played a few years of semi-professional football in the state.
Ahrens may have been big, but he had a soft touch with children, according to his father-in-law. He rolled on the floor with them gleefully and liked to take them fishing and to the movies. More than once, he went in uniform to his daughter’s school to talk about policing and safety.
“He loved it here,” Buckingham said. “He found it just a slower, easier-going part of the world.”
Patrick Zamarripa, 32, survived three tours in Iraq, one of the world’s most dangerous places, said his father, Rick Zamarripa.
“He comes to the United States to protect people here,” his dad said Friday. “And they take his life.”
Rick was watching television Thursday night when news broke that someone had opened fire in downtown Dallas around 9 p.m. at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. He knew his son had recently begun working as a bike officer in the downtown area, an assignment he enjoyed.
“Hey Patrick,” his father texted. “Are you OK?”
Rick had asked his son that question before, because he knew Zamarripa’s job was perilous. The response usually came quickly: “Yes, dad. I’ll call you back.”
Not this time.
“I didn’t hear nothing,” Rick said.
He contacted Zamarripa’s longtime partner, Kristy Villasenor, who was at a Texas Rangers game with their 2-year-old daughter, Lyncoln.
Soon after, Villasenor received word that she should head to the hospital.
Patrick Zamarripa’s entire adult life had been devoted to service. He entered the Navy soon after high school, his father said, and saw combat while working for the military police in Iraq. When he got out about five years ago, he joined the Dallas Police Department.
He just liked to help people, his father said.
Greg Wise, 48, knew him a decade ago when they worked together at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Zamarripa was focused and professional, Wise said, even as he talked about leaving the military before serving 20 years.
Wise would often counsel young sailors who considered walking away before reaching retirement age. Many wanted to quit for the wrong reasons. But not Zamarripa.
“For him, he was just tired of being away from the people he loved,” Wise recalled. “He wanted to go back and serve his community.”
Both his Facebook and Twitter profiles are filled with salutes to other fallen officers and soldiers: “Rest in Peace” in honor of two New York cops killed in 2014; a blue stripe across a black image of Texas; the drawing of an eagle surrounded by the words, “Home of the Free Because of the Brave.”
And he adored his children.
He tweeted videos and photos of himself with his stepson, Dylan, and daughter.
Lyncoln, he liked to write, was his “#princess.”
He tweeted photos of her on the day after she was born in 2013.
“Daddy’s got you,” he wrote. “My new reason for . . . life.”
He’d worked difficult jobs, waited for years and moved more than 1,000 miles, but finally the day had come: Michael Krol was officially a cop. He stood before the cameras, goofy grin and all, as his Michigan family crowded around to watch him hoist a certificate saying he had graduated from the Dallas Police Academy.
It was April 25, 2008. Krol, then 32, still had a cherub face. And he seemed to have a long career ahead of him.
The news of the 40-year-old’s death reached his mother’s doorstep in Redford, Michigan, outside Detroit, early Friday. Ever since, the family has been struggling to reconcile the gentle manner that they say defined Krol’s life and the violence of his death.
He never wanted to hurt anyone, they said. He wanted to protect people.
“He was a big guy and had a big heart, and he was a really caring person and wanted to help people,” said brother-in-law Brian Schoenbaechler, 44, a management consultant in Atlanta. “It doesn’t seem real.”
Krol always wanted to be a cop. After high school — where he excelled at basketball and towered well over 6 feet — he took a job as a security guard at a Michigan hospital. There, Schoenbaechler said, his brother-in-law’s two passions — caring for and protecting others — coalesced.
He parlayed his security experience into a job working in the Wayne County jail system. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but he thought it was the only way he’d find a way to patrol the streets. “It was an opportunity for him to go from being a security guy to being a cop,” his brother-in-law said.
In his free time, Krol played pick-up sports with friend Dan Seiger, who called him “one of the funniest people” he knew. “He was also fond of lording his massive height over me,” Seiger said. “He was taller by nearly a foot . . . Whenever we played football, he’d try to cover me by putting his hand on my head.”
Then came 2007 — and an opportunity in Dallas. The police force there was hiring. So Krol gambled. For the chance to become a cop, he left his community, family, everyone he knew and moved 1,100 miles south to a city he barely knew, Schoenbaechler recalled.
“He said, ‘This is something that I wanted to do.’ ”
When Brent Thompson saw you in church, said Sandra Hughes, he’d wrap you in a hug.
When his children were in Hughes’ classroom, he’d ask how he could help, and what he could do.
And when he became a grandfather, Hughes said, he “just lived for those little kids.”
“He just was an incredible guy,” said Hughes, a retired teacher in Texas. “And I know those are words that describe everybody. I wish I could just think of a word to describe Brent because he was just, I don’t know how to tell you this, he was just wonderful.”
The death of Thompson, 43, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer, marks the first time a DART officer was killed in the line of duty. Thompson joined DART police in 2009, according to the transit agency, which established a police department in 1989.
It was all the more heartbreaking because Thompson was married only two weeks ago — to another officer in the agency, DART Police Chief James Spiller said.
Thompson was always smiling, Spiller said, and always had a kind word to say.
“Very friendly, courteous, polite, professional,” he said. “Engaging, but yet able to fully execute his duties as a police officer, and didn’t always necessarily resort to the police-type approach.”
Thompson on Thursday night was working as a patrol officer in an area of downtown Dallas known as the Central Business District, according to Spiller. He, along with other officers, were focused on Rosa Parks Plaza, a transfer center, and a station.
“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. “And Brent could handle it very well, and he did it well, and that’s why we had him down there.”
Military records indicate that Thompson served in the Marines during the early 1990s. He graduated from the Navarro College Police Academy in 1997, according to a spokeswoman for the school, which is located in Corsicana, Texas.
Hughes, who knew Thompson for years, described him as calm and down-to-earth, someone who never got excited or agitated. When she thought of him, she found herself wishing that everybody could “be like Brent, in one way or the other,” Hughes said.
Michael J. Smith
Sgt. Michael J. Smith, a veteran officer, was identified by police late Friday among those killed in the line of duty by a sniper.
Smith, 55, served with the Dallas Police Department for 28 years and was a seven-year U.S. Army veteran, according to police.
He lived in Carrollton with his family. Relatives said they appreciate the community’s support and prayers.