Sunday, March 22, 2009
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