Holiday carnage and national anger over police killings of black men were followed by the horrific attack on cops in Texas.
Over the past seven days, America witnessed 13 mass shootings that left 14 dead and 57 wounded, punctuated by the tragic shooting of 14 people in Dallas, Texas, a nightmarish event that claimed the lives of five police officers. The attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 216 dead and 696 injured.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered one mass shooting over the same period of time. At about 1:40 AM Saturday, a 38-year-old man walked into a cafe in the small town of Zitiste, Serbia, with a Kalashnikov-type rifle. After firing into the air, he shot his ex-wife and a friend of her's dead, before randomly firing on the remaining patrons, killing three more and injuring 22 before fleeing. Local authorities apprehended him soon after. That attack brings the European mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 28 dead and 94 injured.
The massacre in Zitiste, an archetypal public rampage, was by far the bloodiest mass shooting in the Western world over the past week. But the mass shooting in Dallas, Texas, struck a chord domestically and abroad, coming as it did at the tail-end of a protest against the police shootings of two black men. At about 8:45 PM Thursday, at least one sniper, 25-year-old military veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, shot 12 police officers and two civilians; five of the officers were quickly pronounced dead. Johnson was killed in a standoff in police during which he tied the attack to his outrage over the shootings at the heart of the protest (with which he was unconnected). Three other individuals have been detained and questioned as suspects.
Many details surrounding the Dallas attack, its circumstances, and the motives behind it remain murky. But it's safe to describe it as the most deadly incident for American law enforcement since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the deadliest attack targeting police in decades. Although cops are often injured or killed in mass shootings, they are rarely the express targets of shooters, as they were in this case. Between its unique focus on killing agents of the law and the scale of carnage involved, Dallas is all but certain to become a landmark mass shooting that defines the national conversation for weeks to come.
Just how it transforms that conversation remains to be seen. The death of so many authorities in one instance was bound to initiate a massive public discussion about the safety and perception of police in the United States. But the charged racial context of this particular shooting will likely highlight concerns about the disparity in outrage over the death of police officers versus the death of civilians at their hands. It has also sparked a firestorm of debate and speculation as to what this attack might portend for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement and minority-police relations.
Even as we acknowledge Dallas to be a landmark tragedy, it's important to remember that it was also just the capstone of an already brutal week peppered by drive-bys and party shootings, the sort of violence that has become routine in many parts of this country. Notably, half of this week's attacks—and the majority of its mass shooting deaths and injuries—occurred during Independence Day celebrations.
Around 10 PM Monday, a shooter fired at a man arguing with his girlfriend outside of a home on a street in Cleveland, Ohio, injuring four people, including two children. Half an hour later, a shooting tied to an argument between people at a fireworks display in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, left another four people, two of whom were children, injured. Soon after, a shooter opened fire on a block party in Houston, Texas, killing three and injuring two, including a child. Half an hour after that, a man shot up a barbecue in Brooklyn, New York, injuring seven people.
Another shooter later opened fire on a family celebration on a street in Chicago, Illinois, injuring four more, two of them kids. About an hour and a half later, a shooter unloaded a semi-automatic weapon on a group gathered to watch fireworks outside a trailer park in Laveen, Arizona, killing two and injuring six, including four children. Finally, at 12:50 AM on Tuesday, a shooter killed one and injured three more at a fireworks display in Los Angeles, California.
Over the course of just a few hours, seven mass shootings left six people dead and 30 injured. This was a brutal toll for a celebratory occasion, but it was not entirely unexpected. As experts have told VICE in the past , warm weather and large public gatherings invite mass shootings, as they inevitably bring potential targets out into the open. We saw the same dynamics play out on Memorial Day—and will likely see them play out again come Labor Day. This past week just reaffirmed that trend in a gruesome fashion, and highlighted how easy it is for children to get caught in the crossfire.
Much like the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Dallas will linger on the national stage—even if was far less deadly and involves an (almost entirely) different set of issues. Perhaps it will bring vital conversations about race and the American police system to a head. But even as Dallas becomes a horrific reference point, we will almost certainly see many more weeks like this, with a bevy of mass shootings capped off by one or two uniquely horrific ones.
As Dallas is digested by an alternately aggrieved and enraged body politic, it's important to remember that this incident is not just a culmination of the national conversation going on about policing; it's also a product of America's mass shooting epidemic and rampant gun culture. We know by now that no single event will spark a tired political system into taking decisive action; what we don't know is how much more of this madness America can handle.
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This post has been updated to reflect the latest information on a shooting in Tennessee.