DALLAS – A man planted pipe bombs outside Dallas police headquarters and sprayed the building with bullets during a wild street battle early Saturday that authorities said miraculously left no one dead or injured except the suspect, who was later shot and killed in his van by a police sniper.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the suspect identified himself to authorities as James Boulware, and he blamed police for having lost custody of his son and for “accusing him of being a terrorist.” But authorities declined to officially identify the suspect until a medical examiner verified it. Police arrived at the home of Boulware’s father as an Associated Press reporter was there later on Saturday and began questioning the elder Boulware, also named James.
According to police, the suspect opened fire on the building from his parked van. Bullets pierced the glass at the entrance and caused damage inside, including at the front desk, where the worker on duty had just gone to get a soft drink.
He also fired on officers who drove up to confront him, riddling at least one squad car with bullets but not actually hitting anyone. Cellphone video shot from a nearby balcony or roof showed the suspect’s dark-colored van ram a squad car as gunshots rang out. At one point the suspect got out of his van and walked toward the entrance to the building firing his gun but turned around, according to Dallas Police Maj. Jeff Cotner. Police would not say why he retreated.
The van then fled, eventually stopping in a restaurant parking lot in the suburb of Hutchins, where the standoff ensued.
The suspect had told police negotiators that he had explosives in the van, and Brown said at a news conference that the department decided to shoot him because it felt he still posed enough of a threat.
“When the negotiation was on, he became increasingly angry and threatening, such that we were not only concerned with our officers there trying to contain the scene being shot by him at a moment’s notice,” but also people nearby, Brown said.
Investigators found a package of pipe bombs in the parking lot at police headquarters and at least two more pipe bombs in the van, police said.
Wary that the van may have been rigged with explosives, police used a camera-equipped robot to inspect it rather than have officers approach it immediately, which was why it took several hours to confirm he was dead.
After the suspect was confirmed dead, the van erupted in flames while the authorities were detonating the suspected ordnance inside.
Boulware’s father said that his son had strong feelings against law enforcement after he lost custody of his son, now 12 or 13 years old.
Boulware spent several hours Friday at his father’s home in Carrollton, a Dallas suburb and talked about how well his recently-purchased van drove, the father said.
But he also discussed a widely-publicized video of a police officer in McKinney, Texas pushing a black teenager to the ground and brandishing his gun at other teenagers.
His father last spoke with Boulware by telephone about three hours before Dallas police said the shooting began.
“Not being able to get a job and the legal system letting him down, (he) finally snapped,” the elder James Boulware said in a telephone interview before police arrived. “But I can’t say shooting at a police station is right in any way.”
The attack began around 12:30 a.m., when several police officers were standing nearby. A popular bar across the street from the headquarters building was still open, and the neighbourhood is also home to a boutique hotel and apartment buildings.
Reporters allowed to walk through the scene after it had been secured counted numerous bullet holes in the front window of the police headquarters. Number markings were all over the street to show where shell casings and other forms of evidence had been found. Blackened debris marked the spot where the pipe bombs exploded in the parking lot of the police station.
One squad car that police said had been occupied by two officers at the time had a bullet hole in the back of the driver’s seat. Police on the scene declined to say how the two officers escaped the shots or if they had ducked below the dash.
In the early confusion, witnesses reported seeing as many as four attackers, including some who had taken high positions for better vantage points. Brown later said investigators were confident the only attacker was the suspect later killed.
Anita Grendahl was asleep in her seventh-floor apartment in a high-rise across from police headquarters when she heard gunshots loud enough to wake her up over a white noise machine in her room.
“We just woke up to a few pops and thought somebody was on my balcony, and then looked outside and saw the van crash into the car,” she said.
This story has been corrected to spell the Dallas suburb as Carrollton instead of Carrolton, and to show that debris marked the spot where the pipe bombs exploded in the parking lot of the police station, not a fast food restaurant.
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Associated Press reporter Diana Heidgerd and video journalist Jacques Star in Dallas contributed to this report.