Families of Dallas Cops Killed by Sniper Sue to Shield Records

DALLAS (CN) – Relatives of four Dallas police officers killed by a sniper in 2016 sued the city Friday to block the release of records about the officers’ injuries and deaths, seeking to protect themselves from more trauma.

The plaintiffs include Susan Ehlke and Frank Krol, parents of Officer Michael Krol; Heidi Smith, widow of Officer Michael J. Smith; Kristy Villasenor, widow of Officer Patrick Zamarripa; and Emily Crawford, widow of Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Brent Thompson.

Officer Lorne Ahrens was also killed in the July 2016 ambush. His family is not a party to the lawsuit, which was filed in Dallas County District Court by lead attorney David Watsky of the Dallas firm Lyon Gorsky.

The five officers were killed and 11 others were injured when a local man armed with a rifle opened fire on a peaceful protest and march against police brutality in downtown Dallas. Police say Michael Xavier Johnson was upset about several other police shootings in the news and “wanted to kill white people.”

He later barricaded himself inside the campus of El Centro College on Main Street and was killed when a police bomb robot detonated an explosive near him.

Since the shooting, the plaintiffs say there have been multiple requests by the public and news media under the Texas Public Information Act for records about their relatives’ “fatal injuries, wounds and deaths” and that action to compel Dallas to release the information has been taken.

“If released, the fallen officers’ sensitive death records will undoubtedly become the subject of sensational stories, articles, and headlines published by the media in print, on television, and on the internet,” the eight-page complaint states. “If released, it is virtually certain that plaintiffs and the fallen officers’ children will be exposed to sensitive death records … it would be significantly more traumatic to see these depictions over and over again on television, the internet, or social media, and it would be truly devastating and horrifying to know the public would have access to see, hear, or witness any part of their loved ones’ deaths.”

The surviving family members claim they have a right to privacy in sensitive death records under the Texas Constitution, a common law right to privacy, and a right to prohibit disclosure of confidential information under the Texas Government Code.

They say Dallas has not yet released any information about the ambush, but that city policies “allow wide discretion” regarding disclosure of various types of records.

The Dallas city attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment Monday afternoon.

The plaintiffs seek an injunction against the city and a declaratory judgment that they have the right to control the sensitive death records at issue. One of their attorneys, Bob Gorsky, did not immediately respond Monday to an email request for comment.

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