From The Washington Post:

Before his death, the suspect in the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas last week said he was retaliating for the killings of black men by law enforcement around the country.

“He was upset about the recent police shootings,” said Dallas police Chief David Brown, adding that the suspect, identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Police killed Johnson by detonating a bomb.

By most accounts, Johnson seemed delusional, but there was nonetheless a familiar, dark logic to his actions. Throughout the world, where people lack confidence in the ability of civil institutions to serve justice, they take action on their own — whether to protect or to punish. Johnson’s rampage shows how this tendency can manifest in the United States, where polling suggests Americans have little faith in the ability of the courts to hold police officers accountable — and confidence in law enforcement has declined to its lowest level in more than two decades.

The tragedy of humans’ personal need for safety and retribution is particularly acute in some American cities. A study of homicide in St. Louis between 1985 and 1995 concluded that in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, about 19 percent of all homicides were retaliatory. Data from the same period in Chicago show that about 15 percent of all killings in the city were retaliatory, with a greater share in disadvantaged areas.

These estimates are rough. In some cases, detectives might not be aware that a homicide was committed in retaliation for some conflict. In others, a minor offense or a perceived slight rather than prior violence might be the occasion for the killing, but investigators might not view the crime as retaliation. In cases more similar to Johnson’s, instead of exacting revenge on …

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