Police Shootings, Sniper Attack Shock Colorado Leaders; Sit-In In Denver

<p>(John Daley. CPR News)</p>
<p>Denver&#039;s Director of Public Safety Stephanie O&#039;Malley, Mayor Michael Hancock and Police Chief Gordon White talk to reporters Friday, July 8, 2016.</p>
Photo: Stephanie O&#039;Malley, Michael Hancock and Gordon White Talk To Reporters After Dallas Shooting
Denver's Director of Public Safety Stephanie O'Malley, Mayor Michael Hancock and Police Chief Gordon White talk to reporters Friday, July 8, 2016.

"Each of them were questioning the very soul, the very heart of America," Hancock said. "And each of us had to admit to each other as parents who deal with this every day, we don’t know the answers. We don’t know what to say to your son."

The violence isn’t restricted to any one race, the mayor said. He’s asking religious and community leaders to begin conversations about violence and reconciliation across the state this weekend.

Denver's Director of Public Safety Stephanie O'Malley expressed solidarity with law enforcement officers in Dallas.

“We are deeply saddened by yet another senseless tragedy where the sanctity of life is violated – where those who truly want to serve the community are killed – and where loved ones are left behind to mourn and ask why," she said. "We will ask our officers to remain safe and vigilant as they perform their duties, while keeping the needs and concerns of the community they serve top of mind.”

Denver’s Chief of Police Robert White said extra steps are being taken to try to ensure officer safety, but he didn’t want to offer specifics.

Alton Sterling was shot Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as he was pinned by two white officers who say he was armed. A Minnesota officer fatally shot Philando Castile on Wednesday while he was in a car with a woman and a child. A sniper opened fire on police at a protest march Thursday night in Dallas. Four of the slain officers worked for Dallas Police; the fifth was identified as 43-year-old transit officer Brent Thompson, of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The names of the Dallas police officers have not been officially released.

There was a moment of silence among a gathering of about 100 people Friday at the University of Denver to mark the events, which Tracy Adams Peters of DU’s multicultural center called a "sobering reality of the world in which we live."

She says those who recruit police officers must focus more on their ability to work with people of many races and backgrounds.

The DU gathering came a day after a peaceful protest march along 16th Street in Denver, and a gathering at Civic Center Park and outside the State Capitol, escorted by police officers.

Black Lives Matter supporters plan to continue the sit-in in Denve for a total of 135 hours. That's an hour for each of the black people they say have been killed by police across the country this year.

The gathering directly across from the City and County Building began Thursday afternoon, several hours before police officers in Dallas were killed.

Organizer Vince Bowen says it's intended to be a place for African-Americans to "be human" and grieve and vent about this week's shootings of black men by police. Because of the Dallas shooter's comments about Black Lives Matter, Bowen says they will also now be keeping an eye out for anyone who might want to link them to what happened there.

People have been dropping off food and water for those camped out on chairs and blankets in the shade of a large tree in Civic Center Park, not far from other people playing soccer and taking wedding photos.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered flags be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of the attack in Dallas, Texas, as proclaimed by President Barack Obama.