Officer Brent Thompson was one of five men killed by a sniper
Military tactics and local knowledge of a building help end the shootout
All that separated Officer John Abbott from the deadliest attack on police since September 11, 2001, was a set of glass doors.
And they were about to explode.
Abbott and Corporal Bryan Shaw, both of the El Centro College police department, rushed toward the exit of a school building to investigate the sound of gunshots outside the door.
“You could hear more automatic fire, rapid fire, clear as day,” Abbott said. “That’s when [the shooter] had us coming out the door to engage.”
But before they could make it out, the bullets came to them.
“I saw Corporal Shaw double over a little bit, and the door in front of me exploded,” Abbott said.
Wearing his bike uniform – shorts and a yellow shirt – Abbott slid backward and fell onto a bed of glass, embedding pieces into his arm and right leg below the knee. Getting up, he turned to Shaw and said what they both now realized: They were outgunned.
“I told him to get our rifles, cause it’s a pistol battle against a rifle battle and you’re going to lose every time,” Abbott said.
Shaw could move, but felt discomfort underneath his bulletproof vest.
“I didn’t feel pain, so I assumed it was glass,” he said, not knowing that bullet fragments had skirted his vest and lodged in his side.
Neither man had time to care about their injuries. As Shaw went for the rifles and tactical gear, Abbott secured the door. Dallas police officers were outside advancing on the suspect, and as Shaw began to join them, he spotted an officer down.
“He was 20 feet away from the door. I got him, pulled him out of the line of fire and back into the building,” Abbot said. “The moment I rolled him over I could see that he was my friend.”
A ‘fighter, warrior, hero’
Abbott had known Officer Brent Thompson from their days on the police force for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). He recalled working a Christmas night with Thompson and a group of officers who sat down at a restaurant together.
“He went around the table handing out gifts,” Abbott said. “He was your friend. He wanted to be there for you if you needed something.”
Now those roles were reversed; Thompson needed Abbott as he fought for his life.
“He had been shot in the head and we started to work on him,” Abbott said. “We cut his clothes off and saw that he’d been shot in the chest.”
Investigators later learned that Thompson had been shot from behind, ambushed as he rushed toward the sound of gunfire. He died at 8:58 p.m., two weeks after getting married to a fellow DART officer.
“Brent was a fighter, warrior, hero, and quite the scrapper,” said his wife, Emily Thompson, at her husband’s funeral. “The kind of guy you want fighting with you.”
They’re the qualities Abbott summoned as gunfire again filled the air. The next sound he heard came from his radio. It was Shaw, who was back inside, issuing a warning no one wanted to hear: “He’s in the building!”
The ‘fatal funnel’
Along with being a police officer, Abbott is a military veteran currently in the Navy reserves. Prior to that, he completed six years of active duty, including tours in Iraq.