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Memorial for Dallas police officers: Obama praises law enforcement reaction

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(CNN) — For five days, the news has revolved around the horrific details of the slayings, but on Tuesday afternoon the focus was on the men in blue who lost their lives keeping watch over what had been a peaceful protest.

  • Brent Thompson, 43, a newlywed.
  • Lorne Ahrens, 48, whose smile was regularly reciprocated.
  • Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a father.
  • Michael Krol, 40, whose lifelong dream was to become a police officer.
  • Michael Smith, 55, the Army Ranger and family man.

Their deaths came amid a tragic week for the nation that saw Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota killed during encounters with police.

The Dallas officers were fatally gunned down Thursday by a sniper, an armed-to-the-teeth Army veteran who targeted the officers, perhaps as retribution for police violence largely unrelated to North Texas. Police are still working to nail down an exact motive.

Dallas police officers and other first responders were among those filling the 2,000 seats in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, along with the families of the officers killed and injured in last week’s attack and two civilians who were wounded, city spokeswoman Patricia Blasquez told CNN.

During the program, President Barack Obama praised police for protecting and serving the people.

“Like police officers across the country, these men and their families shared a commitment to something larger than themselves,” the President said. “… The reward comes in knowing that our entire way of life in America depends on the rule of law, that the maintenance of that law is a hard and daily labor, that in this country, we don’t have soldiers in the streets or militias setting the rules. Instead, we have public servants, police officers, like the men who were taken away from us.”

Police in Dallas “showed incredible restraint” and “saved more lives than we will ever know,” Obama said.

“When the bullets started flying, the men and women of the Dallas police, they did not flinch, and they did not act recklessly,” he said.

Former President George W. Bush called for unity.

“At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. … Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” said Bush, who is also a former governor of Texas.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown also addressed the crowd.

The ceremony was not public, but the memorial was being simulcast at Klyde Warren Park, a short walk from the symphony hall.

In addition to their rare joint appearance, Obama and Bush will also meet with the families of the slain officers. The two men will see the families following the memorial service, Blasquez said.

An interfaith choir opened Tuesday afternoon’s service, and the Dallas Police Choir sang the national anthem. An imam, rabbi and Methodist minister from the area were to deliver an interfaith prayer before the speakers take the podium.

The ceremony ended with the interfaith choir — composed of singers from area congregations — joining the Dallas Police Choir in closing with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as the officials on stage clasped each other’s hands.