3 Oakland officers killed, 1 brain dead

March 22, 2009 7:10:54 PM PDT
Oakland police are backing off a previous statement that a fourth officer shot Saturday had died.

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Oakland police department spokesman Jeff Thomason said 41-year-old Officer John Hege was pronounced brain dead but was still on life support Sunday afternoon.

Five officers were shot within a two-hour time period Saturday. It all started at 74th and MacArthur during a traffic stop by two motorcycle officers. The suspect, 26-year old Lovelle Mixon, shot the officers then fled the scene.

An intense manhunt ensued with calls for mutual aid going out and air support from both the California Highway Patrol and Alameda County.

A heavily-armed SWAT team searched buildings within a ten-block radius of the shooting. Oakland police blocked off all access between 73rd and 79th Avenues, and between Bancroft and Outlook Avenues.

Police say around 3:00 p.m. an anonymous citizen reported a suspect barricaded at an apartment building at 74th and Hillside. SWAT members raided that building and as they did two more officers were gunned down. A third officer who was grazed by a bullet was treated and released.

"The person responsible for shooting at the two officers, were barricaded at an apartment located close to this area. A subsequent search of the apartment building, our SWAT team was called in, and during the search for the suspect the suspect fired and struck two more officers. And, they were transported to Highland Hospital in critical condition also. The officers returned fire in defense of their lives and the suspect was deceased," said Howard Johnson, Oakland's interim police chief.

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, Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35, and officer John Hege, 41, who was pronounced brain dead Sunday.

"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 called it a tragic day, and said he will meet with the mayor and police chief on Sunday. "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."

Oakland City Attorney John Russo issued a statement Saturday evening saying," Tonight our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the officers who gave their lives defending peace in our city. This is undeniably one of the worst days in Oakland's history. It is impossible to explain such a senseless and tragic crime. Our police officers risk their lives every day that they are on the job, and we honor them for their service, their bravery and their dedication to Oakland. The members of the City Attorney's Office grieve the horrible loss of officers who dedicated their lives to serving and protecting our city. Our sincerest condolences go to their families, their colleagues and the entire Oakland Police Department."

Police said Mixon wielded two different weapons including 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.

Much of Macarthur and the nearby neighborhoods remained closed to traffic and locked down Saturday evening.

Police say they do not believe there are other suspects involved but their investigation is still ongoing.

Deaths in the line of duty

The last Oakland police officer to die in the line of duty was about five years ago. In July of 2004, 39-year-old William Seuis, a motorcycle patrol officer, was struck by a car. On January 11, 2001, Officer William Wilkins, a 29-year-old undercover narcotics officer, was mistakenly shot by two fellow officers. On January 10, 1999, 41-year-old Officer James Williams, Jr. was shot by a freeway overpass sniper.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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