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Army sent Dallas sniper home from Afghanistan

Army sent Dallas sniper home from Afghanistan

MESQUITE: The Dallas sniper had been sent home from Afghanistan after being accused of sexually harassing a female, and was described as a loner who followed black militant groups on social media.

Micah Xavier Johnson, who fatally shot five officers and wounded seven more before police killed him with a remote-controlled bomb on Friday, lived with family members in the blue-collar suburb of Mesquite, where he played basketball for hours at a time.

Friends there said the 25-year-old black man didn’t seem interested in politics, but his Facebook page suggests otherwise: he “liked” black militant groups including the African American Defense League and the New Black Panther Party, which was founded in Dallas. His photo showed him wearing a dashiki and raising his fist over the words “Black Power”, and his cover shot carried the red, black and green Pan-African flag.

For six years starting in 2009, Johnson served in the US Army Reserve as a private first class with a specialty in carpentry and masonry, the military said. In May 2014, six months into his Afghanistan tour, he was accused of sexual harassment by a female soldier. The Army sent him stateside, recommending an “other than honourable discharge,” said Bradford Glendening, the military lawyer who represented him. That recommendation was “highly unusual”, Bradford said, since counselling is usually ordered before more drastic steps are taken. “In his case, it was apparently so egregious, it was not just the act itself,” Glendening told The Associated Press. “I’m sure that this guy was the black sheep of his unit.” According to a court filing Glendening read over the phone on Friday, the victim said she wanted Johnson to “receive mental help”, while also seeking a protective order to keep him away from her and her family, wherever they went. Johnson was ordered to avoid all contact with her. Glendening said Johnson was set to be removed from the army in September 2014 because of the incident, but instead got an honourable discharge months later — for reasons he can’t understand. “Someone really screwed up,” he said. “But to my client’s benefit.”

When authorities searched Johnson’s home on Friday they found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics. Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown said Johnson told negotiators before he was killed that he was acting alone and was unaffiliated with any group. The chief said Johnson cited the fatal shootings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, which prompted the protest march in Dallas and many other cities. “The suspect said he was upset with white people and wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” Brown said.

Activists with Black Lives Matter, whose peaceful march police were guarding as he opened fire, repudiated the shootings, and it wasn’t immediately clear if Johnson had any connection to the movement, which has disavowed violence. But one of the groups Johnson “liked” on Facebook, the African American Defense League, posted a message earlier in the week encouraging violence against police in response to the killing in Louisiana. “The Pig has shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana! You and I know what we must do and I don’t mean marching, making a lot of noise, or attending conventions. We must ‘Rally The Troops!’ It is time to visit Louisiana and hold a barbeque.” Among Johnson’s other social media likes were groups that focus on the history and accomplishments of African-Americans, such as Black Love Matters, the Nubian Rootz Cultural Center, and I Love Black Archaeologist, a web series

Johnson had no criminal history, according to authorities. Local court records show his parents were divorced in 1996. He was believed to have shared a two-storey tan brick home in Mesquite with family members. Sharon Carter, who works in the district’s registrar’s office and lives near Johnson’s home, said she saw him occasionally wearing military fatigues as he left for army reservist training, but never saw him armed. “They say he was standoffish in high school,” Carter said. “I never really spoke to him. He kept to himself.”

Friend Israel Cooper said Johnson went by “Xavier’, his middle name, had a “cool vibe”, wasn’t really political and seemed educated. Cooper said he and Johnson played basketball at a park near his home. “He would be out there for eight hours. Like it was his job. Just hoopin’,” he said. Cooper said that when he heard the suspect was Johnson, he “was in disbelief because he’s just not like a violent or rough dude. So I was, ‘Nah, it’s probably another Xavier somewhere, you know’,” Cooper said. “It’s the quiet ones that just do the most devastating stuff. You never see it coming. But then it’s more expected, like ‘I should have known’.”

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2016

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