The man who the Dallas police say killed five officers in a barrage of bullets on Thursday was a troubled Army reservist who left Afghanistan under a cloud of sexual harassment charges made by a fellow soldier who sought an order of protection against him and said he needed mental health counseling.
Micah Johnson, 25, left the service in 2015, moving back to the Dallas area, where he had grown up. There, he gravitated toward black power groups, displaying his affinity for them on Facebook.
His profile page, which has since been taken down, paid homage to black pride, featuring images of a raised fist and pictures of the red, black and green Pan-African flag. Both have been symbols of nonviolent black empowerment for decades, but have also been co-opted by extremist groups with racist views.
And when the authorities searched Johnson’s home on Friday, after he had been killed by the police, they said they found “bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics.”
Johnson, who the police said acted alone, served in the Army Reserve from 2009 to 2015, leaving as a private first class, according to Army records.
He was deployed to Afghanistan in November 2013 with the 420th Engineer Brigade, based in Seagoville, Texas. His job specialty was as a mason and carpenter. Nothing in his records suggests that he saw combat or was injured.
While he was in Afghanistan, a female soldier in Johnson’s unit accused him of sexual harassment, according to Bradford Glendening, the military lawyer assigned to represent Johnson when he returned to Texas.
Quoting from Johnson’s file, which was dated May 2014, Glendening said that Johnson’s accuser recommended that he receive “mental help.” She also requested “a protective order against Pfc. Johnson pertaining to myself, my family, home, restaurant and any other place of residence I may reside at.”
According to Glendening, the Army initiated proceedings to kick Johnson out of the military for what is known as an other than honorable discharge.
“They didn’t like him, that was very clear from talking to his commander,” Glendening said.
On Glendening’s advice, Johnson waived his right to a hearing in exchange for a lesser charge.
On his Facebook page, Johnson “liked” two groups that seem to shed light on his ideological views. One was the New Black Panther Party, which was founded in Dallas, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Anti-Defamation League calls it “the largest organized anti-Semitic and racist black militant group in the United States.”
The other group was the African American Defense League, which was formed in 2014 by a man named Mauricelm-lei Millere.
“Millere is known for calling for violence against police specifically, on a regular basis,” said Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “Usually after a high profile police-related shooting he takes to social media to encourage violence against police.”
After the killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Millere called for “death to every blue, bastard, hypocrite, killer pig across the nation,” according to Segal.
Johnson’s Facebook page also included a picture of himself with Richard Griffin of the rap group Public Enemy.
Griffin, known as Professor Griff, made headlines in the 1980s for anti-Semitic comments and has been a longtime supporter of the New Black Panther Party.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Griffin said that he did not know Johnson and that he did not “advocate killing cops.”
Only days before the shootings, after a police officer fatally shot a black man during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota, Johnson’s younger sister, Nicole, had taken to social media to express outrage.
“White ppl have and will continue to kill us off,” she wrote on Facebook. “The only difference is they serve the system hiding behind that blue suit and get off easy murdering civilians. Everything coming into the light and i for one think these cops need to get a taste of the life we now fear.”
After Johnson was identified as the gunman in Dallas, she returned to her Facebook page to express anguish: “I keep saying its not true...my eyes hurt from crying. Y him???”
Johnson graduated in 2009 from John Horn High School in Mesquite, Texas, where he was a part of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, according to Allison Lewallyn, a spokeswoman for the Mesquite Independent School District. He joined the Army Reserve after graduation.
A résumé that Johnson circulated among potential employers in January said he had worked since September 2014 for an organization called Touch of Kindness, transporting “mentally challenged” children and adults to appointments and helping teach them “basic living skills.” He also listed himself as a former shift manager and driver at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop and as a foreman at a company that distributed fliers.
The community where Johnson lived with his mother is a quiet suburban subdivision with two-story brick homes. The family’s house sits across from a large grassy field. Hundreds of reporters swarmed the neighborhood. A police car parked in front of the home kept journalists away.
During a lengthy standoff on Thursday, Johnson told police negotiators that he was “upset about Black Lives Matter,” as well as the recent police shootings of black men, according to David O. Brown, the Dallas police chief.
“The suspect said he was upset at white people,” Brown said. “The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
A local activist, Yafeuh Balogun, said that he had spotted Johnson at demonstrations, but described him as more of a lone wolf. “He was part of a loose-knit group of citizens that feel there needs to be some change that needs to take place,” Balogun said. “The difference is Micah took an extreme position.”