Saturday, March 21, 2009

3 officers dead, a suspect killed in Oakland, California

A man wanted for violating his parole killed 3 officers and gravely wounded another in two shootings Saturday, the first after a routine traffic stop and the second after a massive manhunt ended in gunfire, authorities said. The gunman also got killed.

Two officers were shot in the first incident just after 1 p.m. after they stopped a suspect's vehicle in east Oakland, said Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason.

The suspect fled the scene on foot into a nearby neighborhood, police said, leading to an intense manhunt by dozens of Oakland police, California Highway Patrol officers and Alameda County sheriff deputies. Streets were roped off and an entire area of east Oakland closed to traffic.

At about 3:30 p.m. officers, acting on an anonymous tip, found the suspect barricaded inside an apartment building, police said.

Police said the suspect, 27-year-old Lovelle Mixon of Oakland, fired an assault rifle at officers who came into the building to arrest him. Two officers were killed and a third was grazed by a bullet, police said.

Acting Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said police returned fire, killing Mixon.

The slain officers were identified as Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, who was killed at the first shooting. The two members of the SWAT team who were killed at the second location were Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35. Officer John Hege, 41, is in grave condition.

Somber officers at the police station hugged and consoled each other.

"This is probably one of the worst incidents that has ever taken place in this history of the Oakland police department," Thomason said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was a tragic day.

"All four officers dedicated their lives to public safety and selflessly worked to protect the people of Oakland," he said in a statement. "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."

Police said Mixon wielded two different weapons, one an assault rifle. One gun was used at the first scene and another at the apartment building where he was hiding.

"(Mixon) was on parole and he had a warrant out for his arrest for violating that parole. And he was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon," said Oakland police Deputy Chief Jeffery Israel.

Police would not elaborate on the location of the gunshot wounds on the officers' bodies.

Hours after Saturday's shootings near a busy intersection just blocks from a police substation in east Oakland, people were still at the scene of the first shooting as police tape blocked off streets.

Mo Wiley, 32, of Oakland, said emotions still are raw from the Grant shooting.

"Oakland is a beautiful place," Wiley said. "But I just hate when it gets ugly like this."

Tension between police and the community has risen steadily since the fatal shooting of unarmed 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a transit police officer at an Oakland train station on Jan. 1.

That former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer, Johannes Mehserle, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday. Violent protests erupted on the streets of Oakland in the weeks after Grant's death, further inflaming tensions.

On Saturday afternoon, about 20 people taunted police near the scene of the first shooting.

A group of Oakland ministers went to the hospital to offer prayers and condolences to the family members of the injured officers and the dozens of Oakland police officers who gathered there.

They said that on Sunday morning they would urge their parishioners not to let the event tear the city apart.

Pastor Raymond Lankford, executive director of Healthy Oakland, urged people to show support for the officers and their families.

"What officers do, that is a tough job, Lankford said. They all need love, they need support. They need to know the community is behind them.