Surgeons recalled the chaotic night and the pain of not being able to save officers fatally injured in the line of duty. There were already more than 300 people in the emergency room, according to one hospital officials, and the police officers assigned to the hospital were about to switch shifts when the shooting victims first started to appear, the first in the back of a police car with no advance notice, according to Dan Birbeck, captain of the Parkland Hospital Police Department.
"The officers that had put in their time would not leave," Birbeck told reporters today. "Our main objective was to make sure the facility was safe."
He pointed out it was initially unclear if there were multiple shooters at large. The hospital officers stayed on duty as the injured Dallas police officers started to arrive.
"This is probably the worst thing I’ve seen come through here. It’s shaken me to the core," Birbeck said. "One of the toughest things I ever had to do was stand outside the room of those fallen guys."
"I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night. It weighs on my mind constantly," he told reporters. The trauma bay is located within the normal emergency department and while there were enough medical staff to treat the injured, staff members from other divisions started coming to the ER to see how they could help, Williams recalled.
During the time that the injured officers were treated, another 134 patients were admitted to the hospital that night, plus an additional 10 trauma cases unrelated to the shooting. Parkland Hospital was the facility that treated President John F. Kennedy after he was fatally shot in 1963.
Dr. Alex Eastman, also a trauma surgeon and the deputy medical director of Dallas Police Department, was on the scene of the shooting as part of the SWAT team before he returned to the hospital the next morning. He said the hospital is like a family and that everyone has been trying to support one another through the harrowing last few days.
"When I got here on Friday morning, I was pretty ragged out with what we had just been through downtown," Eastman said. "But I had to come here and see how the family was doing on this end and the first group of people I ran into were trauma nurses. ... I could tell they were relieved that I was OK. I was also relieved that they were OK."
Both Eastman and Williams said they have been working non-stop since Thursday's shooting and Eastman said he missed his son's birthday on Saturday due to a police call.
"Nearly everyone in this room that’s not behind a camera called me, texted me, checked on me," Eastman said during today's news conference, referring to the support he had from other members of the hospital staff.
"This experience has been very personal to me and a turning point in my life," he said.
"The preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me. I think the reasons are obvious. I fit that demographic of individuals" shot by police, Williams said.
Williams went on to call for "open discussions" on race relations in the hopes it will bring people together.
"I abhor what has been done to these officer and I grieve with the families," he said. "I understand the anger and frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem."
Williams said that at one point he was asked whether the hospital should stop taking trauma cases.
"No, we are Parkland. We don't shut down," he recalled replying.