A lone gunman who opened fire at the Dallas police headquarters early Saturday, leading to a tense standoff that continued through the morning, is believed to have been killed by a police sniper, authorities say.
The suspect — who identified himself to police as 50-year-old James Boulware — was shot by a sniper at around 5 a.m. in a parking lot in the Dallas suburb of Hutchins, where he was holed up inside an armored van, Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown said at a news conference Saturday morning.
“At 5:07 a.m., our SWAT snipers shot at the suspect through the front windshield of the van, striking the suspect,” Brown told reporters. “Since that time, we have sent the bomb tech robot, that has a camera, to try and confirm whether the suspect is deceased.”
The Associated Press confirmed the suspect’s death before retracting that confirmation a few minutes later. Police said there’s been no contact with the suspect in over four hours and authorities believe the gunman’s death is likely.
Brown said police are not approaching the vehicle until they can confirm it is not rigged with explosives. The suspect had told police negotiators that he had “C4″ explosives in the van, he said
He added that his department is now working closely with the FBI.
Police said that the gunfire began at about 12:30 a.m. outside the police headquarters at 1400 South Lamar Street. Witnesses reported seeing what appeared to be multiple people firing automatic weapons at the police station, but Brown said authorities believe only one individual was involved in the shooting.
Despite a flurry of bullets and close encounters, including cell phone videos showing civilians at a party across the street and officers sprinting for cover, nobody was injured, Brown said
“He could have easily struck a civilian, but we think his intent was to strike officers,” he said. “He didn’t care when officers confronted him. He shot at officers just as freely as he was able to.”
As officers arrived, the gunman or gunmen rammed a police car with what witnesses described as an armored vehicle, shooting at the officers and other police cars before officers returned fire.
Brown said there have been no reported injures, but throughout the ordeal his officers were seconds from being hurt or killed. He said police still don’t know what type of gun was used in the attack.
“You see bullet holes in the squad cars and bullet holes in the doors that officers were standing behind, but no injuries,” he said. “Its been a blessing.”
After the armored vehicle fled the scene, police say they chased it to the parking lot of a Jack in the Box less than 15 minutes after the initial gunfire. Another firefight ensued, but no officers were injured during that shooting.
A standoff began that has continued through the night and into the morning, and police said the SWAT team used a rifle to disable the armored vehicle.
Brown said authorities have not uncovered a motive for Saturday’s shooting, but they are investigating the suspect’s social media footprint. The chief said the suspect’s name does not show up on any terrorism watchlists, but he is known to authorities because of his history of domestic violence.
“The suspect has told our negotiators that we took his child and we accused him of being a terrorist and that he’s going to blow us up,” Brown said. “And then [he] cut off negotiations.”
Police in Paris, Tex., told the Dallas Morning News that they’d arrested Boulware in 2013 “after he obtained firearms, ammunition and body armor before threatening to attack his family, as well as churches and schools.”
The suspect’s father, Jim Boulware of Carrollton, Tex., told the Morning News that his son blamed police for losing custody of his child. He told the paper that, while his son had threatened violence in the past, his decision to lash out at authorities came as a shock.
“He blames the police for taking his son away from him,” Boulware told the Morning News. “I tried to tell him that the police are just doing their job.”
Though his case was later dismissed, Boulware’s father said the arrest was the beginning of his son’s unraveling. He said Boulware was unable to find steady work and lost custody of his son to the child’s mother. After selling his house and being forced to stay with friends, Boulware was nearing his breaking point, his father said.
“I’m not saying he doesn’t have some problems of some kind … but you can push someone so far and everybody will break,” Boulware’s father told the Morning News.
In addition to the gunfire, authorities also reported four bags with possible explosives left outside of the police headquarters. Police later said they had found two explosive devices, including one bag that contained pipe bombs, and said shortly after 6 a.m. local time that they had cleared the suspicious bags near the headquarters.
Residents were evacuated from their homes near the police building, and authorities said they would not be allowed to return home until the area had been checked for any other explosive devices.
The suspect’s van had a Georgia license plate, police said. The Dallas Morning News reported that online records that a similar vehicle was sold on eBay for $8,250.
The Morning News reported that the company that sold the vehicle — Jenco Sales Inc. — posted the following vehicle description on Facebook:
“Zombie Apocalypse Assault Vehicle and Troop Transport. This full armored zombie busting vehicle features convenient gun ports so no zombie juice touches you during a mass zombie take down. It also has benches in the back so you can take turns resting during long Zombie sieges. The tactical step boards are installed for when you only need swords and axes for drive by mow downs. The bumpers are made of reinforced steel tubing, so no dents from smashing zombie heads! It’s full armor plated and has bullet proof windows just in case you run into other zombie hunting hordes who might try to take this bad boy from you. Like anything, there is a price attached to this fine piece of zombie fighting machinery.”
Several hours after the suspect was shot, police were struggling to get inside the van to disable potential explosives.
(This post has been updated multiple times)