Before Dallas
I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine. Pat Zamarripa grew up in south Fort Worth, Texas, in a close-knit Mexican family. He went through the Fort Worth public school system. A pleasant boy with an easygoing attitude, he made friends easily and was well-liked and respected. He loved sports, and especially took to baseball, as both a player and a spectator.

As soon as he could after graduating from high school, Pat enlisted in the Navy and became a master-at-arms. In the old British and early American naval service, masters-at-arms were charged with enforcing the sometimes brutal discipline on board ship and at shore facilities. This was especially needed during times of war, when nonmilitary sailors (and sometimes common farmers and tradesmen) were forcibly “pressed” (basically kidnapped) into service on warships, sometimes for years. Mutiny was very much feared, and the master-at-arms and his group, along with a small group of Marines, were the only thing keeping the crew from taking over the ship. 

The job evolved over time, and as reforms were implemented and service became voluntary, the master-at-arms became responsible for enforcing standard rules and apprehending and detaining disorderly sailors and sometimes officers. Before 9/11, you most commonly saw masters-at-arms guarding ships and bases and escorting drunk sailors back to bed after a rough night on the town. It is difficult for civilians to appreciate, but when you’re stuck on a ship for eight months at a time, working seven days a week for 14-hour shifts, sometimes down in an engine room with no windows and sweltering heat, you tend to want to blow off a little steam, and so these young sailors tend to drink a little too much when the ship pulls into port. Many times on the Enterprise, where I served as a young officer from 2000 to 2002, I saw masters-at-arms handling out-of-control kids. They did their jobs with respect and professionalism and were measured in their responses.

Pat knew, even at age 17, that serving others and being of assistance to shipmates was his calling, and he chose to be a master-at-arms. This is traditionally not a career path with much possibility of advancement. It is difficult to make chief rank (the goal of most enlisted sailors). He was certainly smart enough and motivated enough to have attempted to become an officer, but he knew that once that happened he would be relegated to administrative, management duties, and he preferred actually working for a living. He loved being a sailor. He did not mind the bad hours, the long days standing guard in the desert with all the heavy gear in Afghanistan and Iraq. He did several active-duty tours overseas.

Then, back in 2005, Pat made the same decision that I had made. He wanted to continue to serve, but he also wanted to be closer to home. Family was important to him, and so he left active duty and affiliated with the Navy Reserve in Fort Worth. He started looking for a civilian job, as I had. Although Fort Worth was his home and I am sure he would have been welcomed into the Fort Worth Police Department, he chose to join Dallas, because he believed it was a more diverse city with more interesting work and potential, and he would have more opportunity to make a difference. He made it through the academy, made it through his field training, and began work. He also had a daughter whom he dearly loved, and he lit up whenever he spoke of her or thought of her. That was something we had in common, as well.

For about seven months Pat worked for me when I was a supervisor at the Dallas County jail. I say supervisor, but he was such a model officer and hard worker that he needed no supervision. He volunteered for the jobs nobody else wanted to do, and he had a smile on his face every day. After he went back to patrol duties, I would see him about every other day when he would make an arrest and bring someone in. We often chatted about family and his reserve duties. I always felt better after seeing him.

Before Dallas
The flag is lifted from Patrick Zamarripa’s casket at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery on July 16.

On July 7, 2016, Pat was working southwest Dallas. Because a protest march had been scheduled for that evening downtown, officers from different divisions were selected to help maintain the march route and keep everything peaceful, blocking traffic with patrol cars and making sure everyone got along and knew the route. This is a very common occurrence. I have worked such marches many times. I also worked a recent visit by a presidential candidate where we anticipated unrest. During that visit, I worked the area just north of the Convention Center on Lamar, about a block south of where Pat was stationed. 

My job several weeks ago was uneventful. Pat’s was not. The protest was ending. The march leadership had spoken with police leadership ahead of time and agreed on the route and length of the march, and everything had gone according to plan. A couple of angry things had been shouted by just a few people, but no one was hurt and there were no real confrontations. People were starting to go home. 

I’m sure you have all read about what happened next. First, a gunman shot and killed two officers—friends and co-workers of Pat’s—and wounded others around him. With the growing darkness, the crowds of screaming people, the surrounding tall buildings with multiple echoes, and the rapid rate of fire from the shooter, it was at first impossible for officers to tell from which direction the shots were coming. I will never know exactly what was going through his mind at the time, but at some point Pat, too, was shot and killed. 

Based on the kind of person I knew him to be (and I know this is subjective), I choose to believe that Pat was trying to help a fellow officer, maybe dragging him to cover, or possibly engaging the shooter himself so others could escape. Pat had been in combat in the Afghanistan/Iraq region, and he knew the risks as well as anyone. But it is against our way of life to take no action when others are being threatened.

I was not working that evening. I only found out my friend had been lost the next morning. I am sad to say he was not the first officer we’ve lost since I joined the department almost 12 years ago, but of those, he was the one I’ve been the closest to. I am also sad to say I’ve seen more officers lost to suicide than to murder. The stresses of this job are not well-understood by most. When something like this happens (and I’m sure the military people out there can attest to this), along with the usual thoughts of, “I’m lucky I was not there,” or, “I wish I’d been there so maybe I could have helped or taken action,” both of which are felt at the same time, comes a quiet resignation that this is the new “normal,” that life is fleeting, and that the important thing is to attempt to live a model life so that, to paraphrase from one of my favorite films, you can “enter your house justified” at the end of the day. 

I attended the rosary service on Friday, the formal funeral mass on Saturday and the military burial at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery on Saturday afternoon. I believe Pat was able to enter his house justified. I am proud to have known him, proud of his service, proud of the way he lived. 

Nationally, the conversation about race and law enforcement continues. Other stories have eclipsed ours. At first, we wondered why the shooter had singled out Dallas. Our police leadership had seemingly done everything right. Community relations have been very positive. One of my high school friends was marching the protest with his wife and son when it all happened; they had to take cover for hours, shielded by an officer against whom they were protesting. During the week of memorial services, Dallas residents set up a makeshift shrine in front of our headquarters building downtown. My office worked that site 24 hours a day. I have never been hugged by so many kids in one week. An 11-year-old boy wrote us a note of support: “Most people think cops are the Joker but you’re really more like Batman or Wonder Woman.” 

I’ve had to answer tough questions from my 6-year-old daughter about mortality. “Daddy,” she asked me, after hearing other kids talk at school, “you mean even police officers can get killed?” 

But in general, our working lives go on; crime does not take a holiday or have a mourning period. Like me, Pat joined the department to help people who were unable to help themselves, to set a positive example for young people and to be of service to this community. Here in Dallas, we want to keep doing that job, and we will take whatever comes our way. 

Ed Ducayet ’89 majored in Asian studies. A former teacher, naval officer, library worker, actor and opera singer, he is now a Dallas police sergeant.