But he also was enraged with police shootings of black men around the country, he told negotiators during a tense standoff, and he “had very strong feelings about being black,” a former co-worker said.
Authorities are now investigating whether Johnson was directed by the militant groups he “liked” on social media — including the African American Defense League, the Black Riders Liberation Party, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and the New Black Panther Party — or merely emboldened by them.
“I think it’s safe to say we’ll leave no stone unturned,” Dallas police Deputy Chief Scott Walton said.
It’s unclear if Johnson was merely a follower or a more active participant of those groups.
Babu Omowale, co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a black militia that performs armed community patrols in Dallas, said Johnson attended black community events in Dallas.
Omowale told Reuters that he did not personally know Johnson but recognized him from group events.
“He wasn’t a stranger to us,” Omowale said.
Omowale stressed that sentiment in a radio interview, saying he recognized Johnson in the same way someone would recognize another person they often see at the grocery store.
Quanell X, leader of the New Black Panther Party, told the San Antonio Express-News that he excused Johnson from that group years ago because he was a “ticking time bomb.”
Omowale said several members of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club had taken part in Thursday’s rally. Members of the group — formed in 2014 in response to police shootings — said the attack was unfortunate but not surprising.
“There’s many people that this particular individual represents,” co-founder Yafeuh Balogun said. “He in a sense spoke on their behalf and unfortunately it made a lot of officers lose their lives.”
“The fact that Micah just got five of the bastards, that’s what got you all upset right now,” Omowale said in the radio interview.