Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why Try So Hard to Maintain Order in Oakland, California?

From top left, clockwise: Oakland PD’s Officer John Hege, Sgt. Daniel Sakai, Sgt. Mark Dunakin, and Sgt. Ervin Romans died carrying out their duties as police officers in Oakland.

Update—Officer Hege has died.

I think by now anyone who has read my rantings knows I am a law-and-order type. I hold the utmost respect for the men and women who choose to devote their lives to the job of law enforcement in its many shapes and forms, but I have a special admiration for those out in the field, assigned with keeping the majority of the population safe from a small but increasingly vile group of evildoers who seem to enjoy inflicting their cruelty and chaos on all of us.

And for me, one of the most repulsive crimes is that of murdering a law-enforcement officer in the line of duty. Period.

On March 21, 2009, the worst of humankind reared its ugly head in Oakland, California. I’ve introduced you to Oakland in previous entries about the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) incident on January 1 of this year, when a BART police officer (I believe accidentally) killed a passenger who was being detained for fighting on one of the trains.

My father was born in Oakland in the 1920s. The Oakland of my father’s time—a city he described as beautiful, safe, culturally rich and vibrant—is long gone. Frankly, today it’s ‘da hood, and though city officials are working hard to gentrify the city, it seems to be a losing battle. Police are overworked investigating gang-related crimes, from graffiti to drug trafficking to assault and of course, the murder that no one knows anything about and ends up unsolved.

Yesterday three Oakland police officers were murdered during two separate incidents, but caused by one perp. Today three families are in mourning, another officer is in an Oakland hospital on life support, a fifth is home recovering from minor injuries.

Incident #1 started as a simple traffic stop at 1:15 p.m. Gunned down at that crime scene were Sgt. Mark Dunakin, age 40, who died later at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, and officer John Hege, age 41, who is clinging to life in grave condition. The suspect, Lovelle Mixon, age 26, who used an assault rifle (weapon #1) on the motorcycle officers, fled the scene.

Mixon was no Boy Scout. The convicted felon was on parole for an assault with a deadly weapon, and was also wanted on a no-bail warrant. Sad to say, the city of Oakland is chock full of his type.

Incident #2 occurred two hours later as 200 officers from Oakland PD, Alameda County Sheriff's Office, BART Police and the California Highway Patrol searched the area for Mixon. After locating the suspect thanks to an anonymous tipster, SWAT officers formed a perimeter around the building and went to work trying to contact the suspect. Eventually police entered the apartment, and Mixon jumped out of a closet with a second assault weapon (yes, that’s weapon #2), killing SWAT team members Sgt. Ervin Romans, age 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, age 35, both of whom died at Highland Hospital. A fifth officer, yet unidentified, was grazed by bullets but was treated and released.

(An aside about Highland Hospital. If you suffer from a gunshot wound, it is the place to be. It is where all of the gunshot victims end up. The staff is highly skilled in the treatment and trauma surgery required after innocent citizens and hoodlums end up on the wrong side of a weapon.)

Mixon was killed by the officers who were obviously in fear of their lives.

Former Oakland mayor and current California Attorney General Jerry Brown (a Democrat who is also the former governor of California and wants the job yet again), said this incident “is bad because he’s [Mixon] a state ward, he’s a state parolee, they let him out. There are hundreds of shooters walking around the East Bay. Our parole system isn’t working.”

I am going to refrain from any political sniping though it pains me to do so.

As officers gathered outside Highland Hospital, waiting to hear any news about their fallen friends, a group of protesters organized and taunted the officers. It is theorized the group that taunted the police are individuals experienced in civil unrest, looking for any excuse to scream about police brutality in response to the BART shooting.

I encourage readers to click on the links below for detailed accounts of this senseless act.

I’m not sure what the answer is for Oakland. My late father told me the city started going down the tubes in the 1960s after President Johnson signed sweeping legislation creating plenty of “entitlement” programs, and that was the beginning of the end for many communities just like Oakland. Gang violence is epidemic, high school dropout rates are abysmal, and many children are raised by undereducated single women with absent baby daddies. Attorney General Brown’s remark about Mixon being a state ward leads me to believe he ended up in the foster care system for an unknown reason (unknown by me).

I also know Oakland isn’t a unique case. The city of Richmond, a short drive from Oakland on Interstate 80, is turning into a smaller-scale Oakland. San Francisco is no longer the picturesque city you remember from travel brochures. And how long has Detroit, Michigan, been an unsafe place?

Please join me in praying for strength for the families of Sgts. Dunakin, Romans and Sakai, who lost their lives trying to save Oakland from itself, and pray for a miracle for Officer Hege. Hopefully the fifth officer makes a full recovery and is able to overcome the horror of what he lived through.

And to the fools in Oakland who seem to think police are bad—you’d better hope that there are still police around to take care of your needs should you be unfortunate enough to need his or her services someday.

(There is also a photo available of the fine young felon who started this tragedy, but I chose not to include his photo.)

3 Oakland cops killed, 1 critically injured; parolee slain in gunbattles

3 Oakland officers killed, one critically hurt

Three police officers killed in Oakland shootings


Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks to President Johnson, my once lovely Chicago suburb also became 'da hood'. In the late 60's, the powers that be decided to move inner city publicly sustained people to a cornfield to give them a taste of the 'good life'.

My former city is now one of the most violent per capita cities in Illinois, and the mom and pop stores that were once near the cornfield have all closed down after being robbed numerous times.

The schools became violent gang havens, where we had to pay a 'fee' to walk down certain hallways. The public swimming pool had to be closed because our 'new brethren' kept fondling the girls and picking fights with the boys merely because of their race.

Now look what's happening to Lancaster and Palmdale. So very sad.

Anonymous said...

I live in Oakland, and I am so sick of the situation. The racial issue is only a cover for a small group of selfish people who claim to be activitist or protesters whatever trying to oppose police/law enforcement officiers whenever they could. Where are all those protesters today? this crook killed 3 officers who had family, wives and children to support. I hope that these people would some days realize that supporting the crook would actually harm themself.

CaliGirl9 said...

Anonymous, I have two black-and-white very early childhood memories of Oakland. My dad had friends who lived in their old neighborhood, and we'd go visit. I had to have been under 5 years of age. I remember playing at Lake Merritt and then going to a show of some sort at a very fancy theatre with plush seats, gold all over the walls and ceiling, and a fantastic sound system. We'd play in the street in front of the houses and our parents were not terribly concerned with our safety.
By the time I was 10, we no longer went to those places because my dad's friends had moved from Oakland and it was not safe to go to those landmarks anymore.
I feel terrible for those of you good people who remain in Oakland, who see and remember the good and the beauty that was once there. I wish there was a way to go back to that Oakland.
Stay safe, and hang in there!

Anonymous said...

I was doing a Google search for news on the Oakland shooting and I found this ( column from the San Francisco Chronicle that was written before Saturday's shooting. The author of the column is criticizing the lack of concern for black-on-black murder. He writes:

"I have had countless conversations with people from Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco in which they were almost bragging about who has the highest murder rate."

The writer, named Jordan Monroe, continued:

"In a conversation with friends at the Obama inaugaration, my friend from Richmond spoke proudly about how Richmond was the murder capital of America."

Mr. Monroe strongly disagrees with this kind of civic pride, but I suspect it is widespread.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but when you reach the point where you are bragging about how your city is the "murder capital of America" you have lost all right to exist in a civilized land. You and your kind should be sent to some far away place (how about parachuted into Iran or Afghanistan) where you can put your love of murdering others to the test.

CaliGirl9 said...

Anonymous (actually both of you!), I could not have said it better myself, though you are much more blunt :)

Anon #1: There needs to be more outrage with black-on-black (or Hispanic-on-Hispanic) crime. It seems as if the community (as a whole, all races and colors) just shrug it off and go on. Did you read my entry about Nisha Morgan's murder a couple of years ago in SF?

Anon #2: You are so correct! What a horrific thing to brag about! Attitudes like that are certain to bring about nothing positive ...

Oakland (and other cities of its ilk) just have this terrible line drawn in the sand, an "us versus them" mentality." Political types and law enforcement (yes, I believe law enforcement doesn't want to have to be the Gestapo!) want to have a dialogue, but in these violent communities there are common threads that have to be taken care of in the HOME. In the case of the Oakland guy, his family KNEW he had weapons and failed to act. In yesterday's local papers, there were quotes from Mixon's family claiming he wasn't a monster (yet his DNA had been linked to an unsolved rape on Friday)—and the family was exclusively female. Where are the men who are making these children/young men who grow up gangsta? These families are waiting for someone else to fix their problems, and as most of us know, waiting for government to fix anything simply doesn't work!
Thank you all for your input at T & T!

Steve said...

Spot on, CaliGirl! The disintegration of a solid home environment is at the core of the problem in communities like Oakland. Most of the black leader voices like Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and others of their ilk preach the victimology sermon: the poor blacks are kept down by the white man. That mantra is so outdated and out of touch with reality its sickening. But these black leaders feel compelled to spew that crap to justify their own existence. They should step back and take a listen to other black voices (like KABC talk show host Larry Elder and noted actor Bill Cosby) who have a realistic view of the problem in those communities. Let me also add that the problem is made even worse by the promulgation, and apparently the acceptance, of this "gangsta" mentality that is perpetuated throughout the music industry. Defenders might argue -- "Aw, it's just music". No it's not. It's IDEAS and VALUES that are spread through the medium of music. Those demeaning and anti-social ideas and values are made more palatable when they are covered up with a catchy rythym beat. Try reading the words of some of that junk without the music to go with it. It's trash.