U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police.
"We have had four more guardians slain, and frankly our hearts are broken," the attorney general said Wednesday in remarks to a fair housing conference in Washington, D.C. "I offer the families of these officers my condolences, and I ask that all of us come together and keep them in our prayers."
Lynch, the first black woman to serve as the nation's top federal law enforcement officer, pointed out that she spent "virtually my entire career" working closely with agents, officers and investigators.
"I know these men and women have volunteered to take on the most challenging and important jobs that we have here," she said. "They do this for us, they move us aside and they run into danger for us. And so please again keep them in your prayers."
Earlier this week, President Obama called the widow of a Harris County, Texas, sheriff's deputy killed while he was pumping gas. The president said targeting of police officers is "totally unacceptable," according to White House officials who provided a read-out of the call.
In recent days, current and former law enforcement officials had pressed top administration officials to speak out on violence against police. And some advocacy groups have called on the executive branch and Congress to make murder of law enforcement officers a hate crime.
Lynch used her remarks at the housing conference to decry a wider spate of violence in recent months, from the slaying of two Virginia reporters on live television to the deaths of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the killing of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
"This violence against all of us, regardless of what uniform any of us wear, has to end," Lynch said.
She said federal and local law enforcement officials would meet in Detroit later this month to discuss ways to reduce violence.
"The Department of Justice stands ready to support law enforcement around this country as they continue to fight every day to protect the communities that they serve and of which they are a vital part," Lynch added. "And we also stand with every community member police and civilian alike as they all work towards a safer community for us all."