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How police officers protected Black Lives Matter protesters during Dallas shooting

At least five Dallas police officers were killed and nine wounded July 7, after a peaceful protest over recent police shootings. (Video: Deirdra O'Regan/The Washington Post)

When Sharay Santora and her two children first arrived in downtown Dallas on Thursday to join the Black Lives Matter protest, she said the interaction between marchers and officers was peaceful, loving. Officers lined the streets as a massive crowd marched past.

“They gave us high-fives, hugs, were taking selfies,” Santora, 37, told The Post. “It was such an instance of love and understanding, that ‘I’m here for you.’  You could feel it. There was no animosity in the air. That was the feeling throughout.”

Shortly after 9 p.m., near El Centro College, participants turned around to peacefully march back. Then shots rang out. Pause. A second burst of gunfire round. Santora said a man dressed in white, bearing a cross, was yelling at marchers to clear the streets.

“As we were taking cover, you see the Dallas PD and the DART officers turning toward what is active fire,” Santora said.

Chaos erupted, and Santora ran with her 17-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. Half of the crowd ran off to the left, the other half ran to the right. “You see police officers rushing people off the street, people who froze, telling people to get to the buildings to seek cover.”

[Officer Brent Thompson was newly married before he was killed in Dallas shooting]

In the mayhem, some people fell down, but fellow marchers also helped. “They didn’t get trampled,” Santora said. “People were picking them up as they fell, and carrying them.”

Images and video show officers pulling fallen comrades out of harm’s way, of officers “running toward gunfire, from an elevated position, with no chance to protect themselves and to put themselves in harm’s way, to make sure citizens can get to a place of security,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday.

Four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer were killed. Seven others were wounded.

Santora said marchers noted “these people who came out to protect us, we’re going to be out there for them.”

She plans to take her children to memorials for the fallen officers, for the same reason she has taken her children to Black Lives Matter demonstrations: “You’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem. Even if you don’t know what to do, you can do something, even if it’s showing love.”

“Murder is murder. They were protecting us, and it’s horrible they lost their lives,” she said. “It happened. We have to continue the conversation.”

In addition to the dozen officers who were shot, at least two other people were injured by gunfire, according to authorities. One of those injured rallygoers is Shetamia Taylor, who was shot in the right calf while protecting her sons, the Associated Press reported.

Taylor was there with her four sons, who range in age from 12 to 17, her sister Theresa Williams told the wire service.

When the gunfire rang out, Taylor shielded her boys, throwing herself in front of them so they could run to safety, Williams told news station WFAA.

At least one of those bullets hit Taylor’s right calf as she covered one of her sons, 15, on the ground.

Officer Patrick Zamarripa survived three tours in Iraq before being killed in Dallas

“She jumped on top to cover him on the ground as she pushed him in between two cars in the curb,” Williams told WFAA. “All she could think about was her other three boys — where are they at.”

She was in surgery for her injuries Friday morning, the AP reported.

Another rallygoer said an unidentified Dallas officer saved his life. Lynn Mays, 46, attended the Black Lives Matter protest Thursday night to take photographs, he told the Huffington Post.

“All of a sudden we started hearing gunshots, just out of nowhere,” Mays told the Dallas Morning News. “At first we couldn’t identify it because we wasn’t expecting it. Then we started hearing more rapid fire.”

He told the newspaper “one police officer that was standing there pushed me out [of] the way because [the shooting] was coming our direction.”

Cuts, still bloody, on Mays’s legs show where he fell when he was pushed out of harm’s way.

Kevin Michael Bautista was part of a peaceful protest in Dallas on July 7. When bullets started to fly, he took out his phone and began recording video. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

“When the officer pushed me out [of] the way, next thing you know, we heard, ‘Officer down,’ ” Mays told the newspaper.

More officers “started running around the corner and the shootout began,” Mays said. “Police officers started shooting in one direction, and whoever was shooting was shooting back, and that’s when the war began.”

On Friday, Mays told the Huffington Post that Thursday night was the “most terrifying feeling I have ever had in my life.”

“If I can find out who that police officer is, I would tell him thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Mays told the outlet.

During the panic, rally attendees also tried to get others to safety. One march organizer, Dewayne Whitfield, described the moment the marchers heard the gunfire, WFAA reported.

“What we tried to do is get the women and the children back there in the protest away from the gunfire,” Whitfield told the station. “They were running toward it, and we had to get them back in the traffic. We had to back the traffic.”

Whitfield added: “Everyone was so terrified. The faces of those people were terrified.”

[This post has been updated.]

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