3 Oakland cops killed in 2 related incidents
Fourth Oakland officer in critical condition – shooter killed by SWAT team
March 22, 2009
Three Oakland police sergeants were shot and killed and a fourth officer was critically wounded Saturday in a pair of related incidents that together rank among the deadliest attacks on law enforcement in California history.
A fifth officer, a member of the SWAT team that killed the suspect police held responsible for the shootings, was treated for minor injuries and released.
The first incident happened about 1:15 p.m. when two traffic officers were gunned down after what police described as a “routine” stop of a 1995 Buick in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland, not far from the Eastmont Town Center.
About two hours later, after some 200 officers from Oakland Police, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, BART Police and the California Highway Patrol combed the area for the suspect, three SWAT officers were shot when their team found him hidden in an apartment on 74th Avenue near Hillside Street, police officials said.
In all, two SWAT officers and one traffic officer died in the two incidents; one traffic officer was on life support late Saturday.
“In these moments, words are extraordinarily inadequate,” Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums told reporters at a news conference Saturday night at Oakland police headquarters. “We come together in shock, in grief, in sadness and sorrow. Our hearts go out to the officers’ families who are experiencing a level of tragedy that goes beyond our ability to comprehend.”
“These folks leave their homes in the morning, with every expectation of returning,” Dellums said, “but they did not.”
Killed Saturday were motorcycle officer Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Sgts. Ervin Romans, 43, and Daniel Sakai, 35, both members of the SWAT team. The other motorcycle officer, John Hege, 41, was in grave condition, officials said.
The suspect, whom police identified as Lovelle Mixon, 26, of Oakland, shot at the SWAT officers, who “returned fire in defense of their lives,” said Officer Jeff Thomason, a department spokesman. The suspect, who police believe was acting alone, was killed. Officials said the suspect was on parole after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and was also wanted on a no-bail warrant. Officials did not explain the nature of the warrant.
Capitol flags at half-staff
“All four officers dedicated their lives to public safety and selflessly worked to protect the people of Oakland,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “Maria and I join the Bay Area in remembering their service and honoring their sacrifice.”
Schwarzenegger said Capitol flags would be flown at half-staff. He is flying from Washington to Oakland today to meet with the mayor and Howard Jordan, Oakland’s acting police chief.
Oakland City Council member Larry Reid called the incident “one of the worst days in the history of Oakland.”
Saturday’s shooting appears to be one of the state’s most horrific police killings.
The most notorious such slaying is referred to as the “Newhall incident,” a Los Angeles County shootout in 1970 that left four California Highway Patrol officers dead and changed the way state law enforcement officers approach high-risk stops.
Saturday evening, as word of the shootings circulated in the Bay Area’s law enforcement community, about 100 officers gathered outside the entrance to Oakland’s Highland Hospital emergency room, waiting desperately for information about their fallen colleagues. Some of them were wearing SWAT gear, while others were wearing baseball jerseys after having raced to the hospital from a game.
At the Oakland Police Officers Association office near Jack London Square, hundreds of officers assembled to mourn their colleagues.
“It’s shock and disbelief,” said Oakland Police Sgt. David Faeth. “We lost a lot of good people today. Good officers, good friends. It hasn’t really set in yet.”
Shortly after the 9 p.m. news conference, religious leaders from the Oakland community formed an impromptu prayer circle.
Pastor David Kietley of Shiloh Christian Church said, “Let us pray for the shalom of this city and for peace to reign in every part of this city.”
First reports of the incident came from a 911 call at 1:16 p.m., reporting that two officers had been shot, possibly with an assault-type rifle. The suspect fled from the scene on foot, sparking a door-to-door manhunt in East Oakland that involved officers from at least five law enforcement agencies.
An anonymous tipster told police that the suspect was in an apartment building just blocks from the original shooting. The SWAT team was called to the site and took control of the area around the building. After repeated attempts to communicate with the suspect, SWAT officers entered the building around 3:30 p.m.
Fired through closet door
According to law enforcement sources, the SWAT team officers entered an apartment and approached a closet. Suddenly the gunman, hiding in the closet, opened fire through the door, killing two officers and wounding a third. Officers fired back, killing the gunman.
|By Jaxon Van Derbeken, Demian Bulwa and Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writers