Funerals for three of the five police officers killed in last week's sniper attack in Dallas, Texas, are being held Wednesday, with hundreds of law enforcement officials paying their last respects to their fallen comrades.
At the first of the funerals, there was a montage of photos depicting the life of 43-year-old Brent Thompson, an officer for the Dallas rapid transit system, at a Dallas megachurch.
Funerals were set later for two city policemen, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith, both among the five gunned down last Thursday by a black Army veteran who targeted white policemen in revenge for point-blank police shootings of two African American men in other parts of the country earlier last week. Funeral services for the other two Dallas officers, Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa, are set for later in the week.
The funerals were being held a day after President Barack Obama commemorated their lives at a memorial gathering in Dallas that also was attended by his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Meeting with law enforcement
Late Wednesday, Obama is convening a White House meeting in Washington with law enforcement officials, civil rights leaders, activists and political leaders to discuss ways to restore trust in communities where there are tensions between police and the residents they are sworn to protect.
In the southern city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cameron Sterling, the son of one of the black men killed by local police last week, called for people upset about the shooting of his father, Alton Sterling, "to protest the right way, protest in peace."
The 15-year-old described his father as "a good man, and he will always be a good man."
At Tuesday's memorial service, Obama said violence during the past week has exposed "the deepest fault line in our democracy."
In an address that ranged from the dedication of law enforcement officers to racial bias in America, Obama said he understood that people across Dallas and the country are suffering.
The president honored the five slain officers and called for unity and hope.
"I understand how Americans are feeling, but Dallas, I'm here to say, we must reject such despair," Obama said.
He urged the nation to speak "honestly and openly" about the current state of race relations, saying we know the overwhelming number of police officers is "worthy of our respect, not our scorn."
Although race relations have improved dramatically in America in recent decades, he added, "America, we know bias remains, we know it."
Five seats were left empty to represent each of the fallen officers during a crowded and emotional memorial at the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.
"They were peacemakers in blue; they have died for that cause," proclaimed Mayor Mike Rawlings. "The soul of our city was pierced when police officers were ambushed in a cowardly attack." He added, "Today must be about unity."
Watch related video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke:
Former President Bush condemned the "hated and malice" behind the attack and called for unity, hope and tolerance in its wake. Bush urged Americans to "honor the images of God we see in one another."
While traveling to Dallas, Obama telephoned the families of both men killed by police, the elder Sterling and Philando Castile in the Minnesota incident, to offer condolences on behalf of the American people.
"These are legitimate concerns raised by all sides of the issues," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "The president is interested in trying to push that conversation into concrete action."
Caught on video
The fatal shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota were captured on video and sparked protests across the nation and charges that police officers, often white, unfairly target minorities.
The sniper in Dallas, Micah Johnson, killed the police officers during a rally by the Black Lives Matter, a grass-roots movement trying to pressure political leaders to take action on police brutality and criminal justice reform.
The president has strongly condemned the use of violence during demonstrations, but he has expressed sympathy for their cause.
Investigators are intensely investigating Johnson's background, trying to determine exactly what led to his attacks on the police officers, whether there was anything beyond his professed anger at the killings of Sterling and Castile. After police negotiations for his surrender failed, authorities detonated a bomb on a robot to kill him.
"We're convinced that this suspect had other plans, and thought that what he was doing was righteous and believed that he was going to target law enforcement, make us pay for what he saw as law enforcement's efforts to punish people of color," Dallas police chief David Brown said.
Bomb-making materials and a rambling journal were found at Johnson's home during a search.