What He Saw: Clinton Bales' Compelling Photos From Dallas Police Shooting

A pair of law enforcement officers prepare to assist in the search for the shooter that killed five police officers and injured nine more in downtown Dallas, on July 7, 2016.

For photographer Clinton Bales, Thursday, July 7, 2016, was shaping up to be another typical night in Dallas, Texas. It had been a hot, humid day in the Big D, and nighttime offered only a slight respite from the typical Texas summer heat. The 2009 Ottawa Hills high school grad had moved to the Lone Star state in 2013 to grow his flourishing photography business. He was at his apartment, just outside of downtown, when he received an urgent text from his mother, Lizeeth, who was at the Bales family home on Manchester Road in Plat III.

It was just a few minutes after 9 p.m. in Dallas and his mom was checking to see if Bales was OK, on account of the "riots." Bales told his roommate to turn on the television and was stunned to see what was happening just five minutes from his apartment.

Several police officers providing security for a protest march in downtown Dallas had been shot, and the shooter, or shooters, was still at large. What Bales and the rest of the country would later learn, was that five law enforcement officers were dead and nine more injured. It was the single biggest attack on law enforcement in the country since Sept. 11, 2001.

The shooter was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran who was angry over the recent police shootings of black men in the United States. He choose to strike at the end of what had been a peaceful Black Lives Matter march that was protesting the recent police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

Watching the evening's events unfold on the television, Bales had only one thought.

"I turned to my roommate and told him I was going down there," Bales said. A nurse, Bales' roommate quickly changed into his scrubs and followed Bales out the door.

"I just grabbed my camera and went," he said. "It was my first instinct."

Using an app on his mobile phone, Bales was able to listen to the Dallas police scanner, to pinpoint exactly where things were happening.

"Not all of the officers had been shot when we left the apartment," Bales said. "We had to park pretty far out and walk several blocks to get to the fringe of the scene. Then we heard on the scanner another officer had been shot."

"The entire time I was there, I never heard any gunfire, but at one point we were walking down the street, about four blocks away from where the sniper was, and people started running in the opposite direction, telling us someone had a gun," he recalled.

"A security guard told us to press up against the building to hide," Bales said. "I told my friend I was going to keep going, and he was in. We kept hugging the wall and got closer."

"My motivation was to go document what was happening," Bales said. "This is something that has never happened in Dallas. Racial tensions were incredibly high between police officers and everybody, and it was the most peaceful Black Lives Matter parades in the country, until one lunatic screwed it up."

"I wanted to shed light on the officers, who are trying to protect us. I have many friends who are police officers," he said. "There is too much of a bad wrap happening, these guys are here, making sure we are safe."

Bales was able to make it to the forward most police cordon, right next to all of the major news outlets. He was a mere 100 yards away from El Centro College, near where the sniper had holed up.

"I am doing what I can to be behind cover, but to get some of the pictures I wanted you can't hide all the time; you have to go out there and get it," Bales said. "You hope they have the situation contained, but there is a chance you might get shot at. I felt what I was doing was far more important."

He captured more than a dozen images that night of law enforcement and other first responders.

"This was a part of history and needed to be documented. I don't want to make any money off of these images. The story had to be told," Bales said.

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Clinton Bales, Dallas, police, shooting
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