Three Oakland Police Officers Dead, Fourth in 'Grave Condition'

Bay City News
Saturday March 21, 2009 - 10:20:00 PM

Three Oakland police officers are dead and a fourth is in "grave condition" after being shot Saturday afternoon by a wanted Oakland parolee in two separate but related shootings. 

At a news conference Saturday night at police headquarters, it was announced that the three officers who died were Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35. 

A fourth officer, Officer John Hege, 41, is in grave condition at Highland Hospital. 

The first shooting happened after two motorcycle officers, Dunakin and Hege, made a routine traffic stop on a 1995 Buick at 1:08 p.m. in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard, police spokesman Jeff Thomason said. 

The suspect, Lovelle Mixon, 27, of Oakland, apparently shot the officers while they were near their motorcycles, Field Operations Deputy Chief David Kozicki said. 

At 1:16 p.m., authorities got a call that the officers had been shot, and minutes later they received word that the suspect had entered a nearby multi-unit apartment complex. 

The SWAT team was called in, and after repeated attempts to communicate with Mixon, police entered the apartment and were immediately fired upon with an assault weapon. 

Two officers, Romans and Sakai, were immediately killed, while a third officer was grazed in the head by a bullet. Police have not released the third officer's name or condition. 

Other officers immediately returned fire, fatally wounding Mixon. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan said Mixon had an "extensive criminal history", and had a no-bail warrant for his arrest for violating his parole for assault with a deadly weapon. 

Dunakin had been with the Oakland Police Department since 1991, while Romans had been there since 1996, Hege since 1999 and Sakai since 2000. 

Resident Rosa Hernandez, who lives in the 2700 block of 74th Avenue, said the second set of shootings happened at a three-story apartment building behind a pawn shop at the corner of 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.  

An Oakland resident who wished to be identified as A. Richards was at a friend's house this afternoon on 74th Avenue across the street from where those shootings happened and said she saw one of the officers being shot as she watched from a front window.  

She said the officer was standing outside the apartment building in front of heavy-duty brown double doors when there was a loud "boom" and the officer fell backward.  

Richards said a commotion followed.  

"All I heard was multiple voices, 'Officer down, officer down, officer down,'" she said.  

Richards said two officers grabbed the wounded officer by his armpits and dragged him down the street, leaving behind a pool of blood.  

She spent the afternoon moving back and forth between the front room of her friend's home and a back bedroom where she had taken refuge after seeing swarms of police show up with guns drawn. 

She said police were using her black Ford Contour as a shield. 

"Every once in a while I'd come to the window and check it out, see if it was OK to leave," Richards said.  

Richards said she, her husband and her nephews had been helping their friend move this afternoon and that her 14-year-old nephew had seen a black man wearing a black T-shirt run into the apartment building shortly before police showed up.  

She said her nephew hadn't seen a gun and initially didn't think much of it, but later shared what he had seen with police after learning what had happened.  

This evening, Richards was still grappling with what she had witnessed. 

"Everything that I've experienced in my life, the bad guy is always behind bars, but this is so different," she said.  

Hernandez said around 9:45 p.m. she'd just been let back into her house. She said some of her neighbors who live in the apartment building where the suspect had barricaded himself were still waiting to get back home to see their children.  

"I'm glad I had my ID, they didn't really want me to come in," she said of police.  

She said 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard were still blocked off.  

Tonight's news conference was attended by Jordan, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and state Attorney General Jerry Brown. 

Dellums said "It's in these moments that words are extraordinarily inadequate. We come together in shock, in grief, in sorrow." 

Jordan said he had received a call from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who released a statement about the shootings this evening. 

"This is a tragic day for law enforcement everywhere ... Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost, the Oakland Police Department and law enforcement officers throughout California during this difficult time," Schwarzenegger said.  

Asked how the department is coping with the deaths, Jordan said, "One thing is clear. These men are very resilient. We're a big family, and we rely on each other for support." 

Thomason said an announcement about funeral arrangements would be made in the coming days. An array of flowers was already set up in the lobby of police headquarters under a wall in tribute to police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.