Community attends Oakland officers' memorial

March 27, 2009 11:33:09 PM PDT
Most of the people present at Thursday's memorial service did not know the fallen Oakland officers, but they still felt they needed to be here to pay their respects in person.

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Berkeley resident Barbara Tengeri arrived at 6 a.m.

"When I heard about it the first time, I cried; it just flowed for me, I couldn't believe it," Tengeri said.

"I love policemen and I came to say my prayers for them," Daly City resident Gayle Cronin said.

Some of those who came did share a personal connection with one of the men who died. James Irvin knew Officer John Hege in high school.

"I just had to be here and show my support for him," Irvin said.

Professor James Rocheleau came from Sacramento's Union Institute and University, where Sergeant Mark Dunakin was earning a degree in criminal justice.

"He was going to graduate this spring, and we're going to give his widow his degree at graduation in July," Rocheleau said.

Others came because they were invited by the Oakland Police Department

Oakland resident Clarence Ellis was given special thanks during the ceremony. The 53-year-old army veteran was walking home when he saw Officer Hege and Sergeant Dunakin on the ground bleeding. He tried to provide first aid and performed CPR.

"I'm probably going to get a lot of static for you know, you helped the police, but you've got to help somebody," Ellis said.

The thousands who could not get a seat inside the arena went next door to the Coliseum to make sure they were part of a community collective effort to grieve and begin to heal.

"I feel like there's so much tension between the communities and the police, if we could just get to know each other on a humane level, that we could bridge the gap," Oakland resident Naoia Fanene said.

"Sometimes it takes tragedy to bring people together and examine what is deeper that binds us together," Oakland resident Peter DuMont said.


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