Federal investigators are looking into links between Dallas cop killer Micah X. Johnson and radical black liberation groups, Reuters reports.
One of the groups with ties to the 25-year-old is the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a Dallas-based black militia group named after the co-founder of the Black Panthers.
“He wasn’t a stranger to us,” the gun club’s co-founder, Babu Omowale, told Reuters of Johnson, who murdered four Dallas police officers and one DART officer Thursday night during a rally to protest the recent police-involved deaths of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Omowale said that he did not personally know the former Army private, who died when he was blown up by a police-operated robot bomb, but that he sometimes saw him at the group’s gatherings.
He was “very compassionate about his people,” Omowale told Reuters. “It hurt him and broke his heart every day to read on social media about his people being killed by police.”
It is unclear if Johnson, who served one tour in Afghanistan, where he was accused of sexual harassment by a female soldier, attended the group’s combat readiness training sessions. Internet videos show members of the group training in combat-like settings with rifles and other weaponry.
Another video shows group members marching and chanting “Oink, oink; bang, bang” and “the only good pig is a pig that’s dead.” “Pig” is a derogatory term for police officers.
The group also often attends open-carry events. Earlier this year members of the gun club, which has ties to the New Black Panther Party, held a counter-protest against a group called the Bureau of American Islamic Relations, which was protesting a Dallas-area mosque.
The gun club may have had a presence at Thursday’s rally in downtown Dallas.
Omowale wrote on his Facebook account: “Passing on the information: there will be a rally at the federal building downtown Dallas at 7pm behind the recent murders of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota for those that interested and able…”
The Reuters article did not say whether members of the group attended the event. The Daily Caller’s request for comment from the gun club was not returned.
Omowale, whose real name is Darrin Reed, offered mixed feelings about Johnson’s actions.
“We don’t condone it, we don’t support it, but we understand it,” he told Reuters.
“We can understand how the conditions of America today pushed that man to respond how he did. Every man and woman has his breaking point, and we just think Micah got to his breaking point before anyone else.”
“This didn’t happen because a man wanted to go out to kill some people. The judicial system in America is corrupt.”
Johnson’s Facebook page showed that he “liked” other radical groups. He followed the African American Defense League and various Black Lives Matter chapters.
Police recovered several items from Johnson’s home in Mesquite, a suburb of Dallas. They found bomb-making materials, ammunition and a journal containing combat tactics.
Police initially believed that Johnson was working with other shooters but later concluded that he acted alone. Two men and one woman were detained at one point but released.
It is unclear from the Reuters article if federal investigators are investigating radical groups to find accomplices who may have planned Thursday’s attack with Johnson or whether they are looking for information about what might have motivated him to act.
Johnson reportedly had no prior criminal history before the shooting. But others in the Huey P. Newton Gun Club do, including Omowale.
Texas criminal records show he was convicted of felony aggravated assault stemming from an incident in 1993. He was charged with misdemeanor unlawful possession of a firearm multiple times in the 1990s, likely because he was a felon in possession of a weapon.
Omowale can be seen on video carrying firearms during protests and training exercises. It is unclear if Omowale’s right to carry a firearm has been legally restored.
This article has been updated with additional information.