Waiting outside a federal courthouse, photographer Tom Fox took in Dallas’ 8 a.m. bustle. People dressed for work got out of cars. A homeless man danced on a street pole.
But when what initially sounded like a truck backfiring clarified into gunshots, the routine assignment for a veteran journalist morphed in a moment.
As shots echoed off the tall buildings, an armed officer dashed past The Dallas Morning News photographer. A man came around the corner half a block away and Fox pulled out his long lens — focusing in on green military-style garb, a mask and a belt full of ammunition. The gun barrel swung around. Fox squeezed off a last frame. And he ran for cover behind a column in the building’s façade.
“I was just praying in that corner that he wasn’t going to pass me,” Fox, 51, told The Associated Press. “I was just afraid he was going to be running with a gun. He was going to pass me, see me, identify me with the camera and shoot me.”
Fox’s photos offer a rare in-the-moment glimpse of the type of shootings most Americans only see after the fact. In capturing the gunman approaching the doors of the federal building, Fox said he acted on instinct reinforced by his colleagues’ experiences blocks away a few years earlier.
Brian Isaack Clyde’s assault on the Earle Cabell Federal Building marks downtown Dallas’ second high-profile shooting by a U.S. Army veteran in less than three years. In July 2016, Micah Johnson shot and killed five law enforcement officers and wounded nine others before police killed him. But Clyde was the only fatality Monday.
“I don’t think, if it wasn’t for the July 7th shootings, that I would have known how to react,” said Fox. “It was just instinctual.”
Officials have praised the training and courage of the Federal Protective Service officers who confronted Clyde, saying their actions likely prevented many more deaths. But little information has emerged on what motivated the attack.
On what appeared to be his Facebook page, Clyde posted frequently about weapons. A post on Sunday with a photo of a short sword has the caption: “A modern gladius to defend the modern Republic.” A Saturday post features a photo of gun magazines.
He captioned a video posted June 9 — the day a severe storm hit Dallas: “This storm is about to pay for kicking me off my porch.” In that video Clyde talks to the camera in a candle-lit room. He says, “I don’t know how much longer I have, but the … storm is coming. However, I’m not without defense.” He then lifts a long gun, saying he’s “ready” and “Let’s do it.”
Federal authorities have not confirmed the authenticity of the Facebook page, which was taken down Monday after the shooting. Fox said the man pictured in it is the same person he saw at the courthouse.
After graduating from high school in Austin in 2015, Clyde went into the U.S. Army. He served as an infantryman from August 2015 to February 2017 and achieved the rank of private first class, according to the Army.
Clyde graduated last month from Del Mar College, a community college in Corpus Christi. He was recognized as an outstanding student at a ceremony in April, according to a statement from Del Mar College.
Gabriel Wadsworth, who was stationed with Clyde at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, expressed shock at the news.
“Nobody knew that he would have done something like this,” Wadsworth told The Dallas Morning News.
Crouched in his corner, Fox listened to the sounds of gunfire and shattering glass. A video shows bullets strike the wall above him.
Fox began recording video, but said the shots were louder in person than they ever are on the screen.
“It was very intense, and it seemed like it wasn’t going to stop,” he said. “I just waited and waited and waited for almost an eternity.”
When an officer eventually appeared across the street, Fox said he was determined to find the gunman and “crept along” with police through a nearby parking lot.
Fox said he didn’t see Clyde get shot. “The last I saw him was in my camera lens down the street, and I’m thankful that I never saw him until I saw him lying face down in the parking lot,” he said.
As officers in blue surgical gloves cared for Clyde, Fox told his editor that there’d been a shooting and texted in a smartphone photo.
Fox said police told him to stay on the scene. But before he went in for an FBI interview, the 29-year Dallas Morning News veteran said he met a colleague on a corner and handed off his cameras’ memory cards.
“My photos were already being worked up before I got back to the paper,” he said.