Sitting in her Charlotte home last Thursday, Charleen Sonner was told to switch from her Lifetime movie to the breaking news in Dallas.
“What about Lorne?” her friend texted her after seeing initial reports on the news.
But Sonner didn’t know. She said she texted both her son, Dallas Police Department Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, and his wife, asking them to “let me know if you’re okay ASAP.”
But she never received that text. By 3:30 Friday morning, she got the call that her son was shot and did not survive.
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The gunman, 24-year-old black Army veteran Micah Johnson, shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas, last week. The 6-foot-5, former semi-pro football player died of injuries he sustained from multiple bullets that penetrated his liver.
“He had his bulletproof vest on,” she said. “But that doesn’t stop these high-velocity assault weapons. And he was shot multiple times.”
Ahrens, 48, is survived by his wife and two children. Sonner said her son was “a compassionate, caring person … and a wonderful father.”
She said she was talking on the phone with him once when he said, “Mom, I’ve got to go. Sorcha (his daughter) and I are having a tea party.”
Sonner had visited her son in Texas before and said he loved living there.
“He was a big ol’ Texas guy,” she said with a laugh. “He loved his dogs, and he liked fishing.”
Although Sonner questions why her son had to die, she said she was proud of the man that he was and of his actions on the force.
“His presence was very large, but his heart was larger,” she said. “Here’s this big bruiser, but he has this real real soft heart.”
Sonner said she and her son – Ahrens’ half brother – have received endless support from the community, both in Charlotte and in Dallas.
“The outpouring of love from people … is just beautiful,” she said. “We feel that energy.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reached out multiple times, Sonner said. The police are even taking her and her son to the airport tomorrow.
That’s because the Dallas Police Department is paying for the family to fly down for Ahrens’ viewing and funeral. Sonner said they want everyone to be there together.
“They want to do something for the families of all the fallen,” she said. “And that’s really a big help.”
‘There’s gunfire! Run!’
Ahrens had worked for the Dallas police for 14 years. He was planning to retire after five more, his mother said.
“He loved police work,” she said. “He was very passionate about that.”
Sonner described an eyewitness account of the events that took place that tragic night.
She said, “There was this big bald guy (Lorne) … and as he was going down on the ground, he said, ‘There’s gunfire! Run!’ ”
Sonner said she was proud that even as he was dying, he was still trying to protect and serve the people of Dallas.
“He’s affected so many lives in a positive way,” she said, choking back tears. “It makes me proud as a mom.”
Rachel Stone: (704) 358-5334, @RStone1317