2009 shootings of Oakland police officers

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2009 shootings of Oakland police officers
Location Oakland, California, USA
Date Saturday, March 21, 2009
1:08 p.m.–3:20 p.m. (PDT)
Target Oakland Police Department officers
Attack type
Resisting arrest
Weapons
Deaths 5 (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
1
Perpetrator Lovelle Mixon

Two shootings of Oakland, California police officers took place on Saturday, March 21, 2009, when four officers were killed by a convicted felon wanted on a no-bail warrant for a parole violation. The convicted felon, Lovelle Mixon, initially shot and killed two Oakland police officers during a traffic stop, then killed two more when SWAT team officers attempted to apprehend him two hours later. Mixon staged an ambush of the SWAT officers from his hiding place and was killed in a barrage of gunfire as the officers returned fire in self-defense.[1]

The killings made it one of the worst days for law enforcement in California history. It was the single deadliest attack on California police officers since the Newhall massacre in 1970, when four California Highway Patrol officers were shot and killed by two men in Santa Clarita, California. It was also the deadliest attack on U.S. law enforcement since the September 11 attacks.[2][3]

This incident brings the total number of Oakland police officers killed in the line of duty since 1867 to 51.[4][5]

Details[edit]

Double rape[edit]

On May 4, 2009, a state laboratory that used Mixon's DNA linked him with a double rape that took place on the morning of March 21, hours before the shootings.[6] At approximately 5:40 a.m., seven hours before the first part of Mixon's assault on the officers, two young women in their 20s were setting up a food court at High Street and International Boulevard. Mixon pulled a handgun (believed to be the one he used hours later in the shootings), marched them four blocks at gunpoint, raped them, and then fled the scene.

Traffic stop on MacArthur Boulevard[edit]

At 1:08 p.m. PDT, approximately seven hours after the rapes, Mixon's burgundy 1995 Buick sedan was pulled over by two motorcycle officers, Officer John Hege and Sergeant Mark Dunakin, for a traffic violation, in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland, one block away from Eastmont Town Center and an Oakland Police Department substation. After collecting Mixon's driver's license, Sergeant Dunakin became suspicious that the license was fake and signaled to his partner, Officer Hege, to arrest Mixon.[6][7] Mixon then accessed a semiautomatic pistol, leaned out of the vehicle's side window, and opened fire without warning, methodically shooting both officers twice. After the officers collapsed to the ground, he got out of the vehicle, approached them, and fired execution-style directly into their backs.[8] He then briefly remained standing over the bodies before fleeing on foot. Those who heard the gunshots reported Mixon as having fired six shots.[9] Neither officer was able to return fire.[10][11][12] Mixon was last seen fleeing westward into the surrounding neighborhood on 74th Avenue southbound,[8]

As Mixon fled, some witnesses called 911, while others ran over to the stricken officers and started providing comfort and CPR until ambulances arrived at the scene.[8] When they did, Sergeant Dunakin had died, while Officer Hege was mortally wounded, having been shot behind the left ear.

Mixon's family members were well aware of his criminal activity. According to a cousin, Mixon had recently purchased his handgun (illegal for a felon on parole), as well as the burgundy Buick he had been driving when the traffic stop happened, by using profits from his most recent criminal endeavor, pimping. Mixon was talking with his uncle on a cell phone at the time of the traffic stop and promised to call back afterwards. "But he was probably thinking about that piece he had in the car," said Curtis Mixon, 38, "and he wasn't about to go back to jail."[13]

Manhunt for the shooter[edit]

An intense manhunt for Mixon was conducted, being participated by some 200 officers from the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the BART Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, and several agencies from various cities. He was described to police as a black male wearing all-black clothing and wire-rimmed sunglasses. Nearby streets were cordoned off, and an entire area of East Oakland was closed to traffic. However, due to the absence of senior Oakland police officers, positions in the new command post were self-assigned by the on-scene commanders, who were overwhelmed by the city-wide response. It took 90 minutes for senior officers to arrive at the scene and take control of the manhunt. Eventually, after a search on the Buick was conducted, Mixon was formally identified as the suspect in the MacArthur Boulevard shooting.[8]

As police descended on the neighborhood, a local woman walked up to MacArthur Boulevard to see what the commotion was about. She noticed the burgundy Buick, and recalled seeing Mixon in the car during the previous few days. She also knew that Mixon's sister lived in a two-bedroom, ground-level apartment at 2755 74th Avenue, just a block from where the motorcycle officers were shot. Although she knew her life would be in danger if she were labeled a "snitch", the woman decided to give this information to an officer she recognized.[14] The information was then relayed to Lieutenant Christopher Mufarreh,[15] who was investigating Mixon's possible whereabouts independently, by an off-duty police lieutenant. Without consultation or coordination with his superiors, Mufarreh ordered a SWAT team to converge on the scene.

Upon meeting up with the off-duty lieutenant and the woman who reported Mixon's current position, Mufarreh didn't believe the latter's credibility as an eyewitness, as she didn't see Mixon directly enter the apartment, and dismissed her statement. However, at the same time, another eyewitness had come forward with a valid account of seeing Mixon enter the apartment, although Mufarreh was unaware of that, as he had not reported back to the lieutenant who received the testimony. Mufarreh ordered a perimeter to be set up around the apartment, while the first members of the SWAT team arrived at the scene.

At 2:38 p.m., Mufarreh decided to have the SWAT team enter and clear the ground floor of the apartment before sending in a tracking dog. However, the full SWAT team had yet to be assembled. Sergeant Daniel Sakai was then reassigned by Mufarreh from his previous position as canine coordinator to the SWAT team.[8] Unknown to the SWAT team, following the MacArthur Boulevard shooting with the pistol, Mixon had managed to secure an SKS carbine with a fixed bayonet,[8] likely stored in his sister's apartment.[16]

Police eventually concluded that the lives of people in the three-story apartment building might be at risk, so they couldn't afford to barricade the building and wait. They determined that because of the location of Mixon's sister's apartment within the building, there was no way to ensure that other residents could safely be brought through the single front entry door to the street.[14][17][18] Mufarreh then decided to send in the SWAT officers prematurely, assessing that the threat level was low due to a high unlikeliness that Mixon was actually present inside the apartment. The tactical commander, Captain Rick Orozco,[15] approved of Mufarreh's plan.[8]

Shootout on 74th Avenue[edit]

At 3:02 p.m.,[8] SWAT officers raided the apartment, breaking down the door while throwing nonlethal shock (flashbang) grenades.[14][19][20] At the time of the raid, the room was poorly illuminated. Sergeant Pat Gonzales entered the room first, followed by Sergeant Ervin Romans. As Romans entered, he was ambushed by Mixon, who shot him through the wall and door of a bedroom he was hiding in, mortally wounding him. Gonzales was then shot and wounded in the shoulder, although he continued to lead the team inside the bedroom. None of the officers managed to fire their weapons yet due to the poor lighting of the room. They were momentarily surprised by a woman who screamed loudly and fled the bedroom.

As Romans's body was evacuated, one of the other SWAT officers then spotted Mixon beside the bedroom door, equipped with the SKS rifle, and fired at him. Mixon was forced to retreat inside the room and close the door. The team moved towards the bedroom and partially forced the door open. As he managed to get inside, Sakai was shot and mortally wounded by Mixon. Gonzales rushed into the room next and tripped on the floor, falling in front of Mixon and being struck in the head by a bullet, although it was deflected by his tactical helmet, which protected him from injury. Spotting Mixon, Gonzales opened fire and was joined by Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Derrick Pope; Mixon was felled by the barrage of gunfire and died from his wounds at 3:20 p.m.[8]

The victims[edit]

During this incident, four policemen were killed in the line of duty, and one additional officer was injured.

Killed:

Officers Dunakin, Romans, and Sakai died on March 21, 2009, while Officer Hege died from his injuries on March 24, 2009.

Injured:

  • SWAT Sergeant Pat Gonzales was shot through the left shoulder and had a second bullet ricochet off his helmet.[25]

The perpetrator[edit]

The assailant was identified as Oakland resident Lovelle Mixon, age 26, who worked sporadically as a plumber and custodian.[26] Mixon wielded two different weapons—a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and an SKS rifle—during his deadly assaults on the Oakland police officers.[1]

Mixon had an extensive criminal history. Beginning at age 13, he was arrested multiple times for battery,[27] and by age 20 was serving a Corcoran state prison sentence following a felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon and armed robbery in San Francisco. After he was paroled, Mixon went in and out of prison. When the shootings happened, he was living in East Oakland at his grandmother's house and was wanted on a no-bail arrest warrant for violating his current parole conditions. On March 20, 2009, the day before the shootings, the Oakland Police Department learned that Mixon was linked by DNA to the February 5, 2009 rape of a 12-year-old girl who was dragged off the street at gunpoint in the East Oakland neighborhood where Mixon's sister lived. On May 4, 2009 a state laboratory confirmed not just this link, but also confirmed that Mixon robbed and raped two young women about seven hours before the shootings. Investigators said that Mixon may have committed several other rapes during recent months, although no convictions or indictments had been secured before his death.[28][6] If Mixon had been arrested for his parole violation, he would have faced at most six months in prison; if convicted of rape, he faced a life sentence.

Mixon had also been the primary suspect in a previous murder case; however, due to lack of evidence he had been charged only with lesser violations: possession of drug paraphernalia, forgery, identity theft, attempted grand theft, and receiving stolen property.[29][30][31]

Aftermath[edit]

Racial tensions[edit]

Some race-related issues surfaced following the shootings. Since Mixon was black and the slain officers were white and/or of mixed race, several community leaders voiced concern that the confrontation might lead to increased tensions between Oakland's black community and the Oakland Police Department.[32] Although many Oakland citizens had stepped forward to help at the scene of the motorcycle police shootings, about 20 bystanders had taunted police as they gathered at the scene.[33] Citing their cause as "resistance to police brutality," Uhuru House activists, who promote "African internationalism," handed out flyers in the neighborhood where Mixon was shot, inviting people to a rally where they might "uphold the resistance" of "Brother Lovelle Mixon".[34] The San Francisco Bay View, which identifies itself as a "National Black Newspaper," suggested that the killing of four police officers was a victory for "the people" and referred to Lovelle Mixon's death as a "murder".[35] Approximately 60 people attended the March 25 Uhuru House rally in support of Mixon. The demonstrators marched down MacArthur Boulevard, some carrying signs proclaiming "genocide".[36][37][38] On the other hand, Caroline Mixon, Lovelle Mixon's cousin, paid a public tribute to the Oakland police, thanking them for "serv[ing] and protect[ing] the city of Oakland." [39]

Timeline[edit]

  • March 22 - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags at the state capitol flown at half-staff in honor of the slain officers.[40]
  • March 23 - Officer John Hege's organs were harvested. After Hege was transferred to the hospital, doctors determined that his brain lacked sufficient activity to sustain life. He was the only one of the four fatally shot officers who was a registered organ donor, and he had to be deemed officially brain dead before his organs could legally be harvested. So he was kept on life support awaiting the official declaration of brain death and subsequent organ harvesting. Officer Hege was pronounced officially brain dead on March 22. His organs were harvested on March 23, he was disconnected from life support that evening, and he died afterwards. His organ and tissue donations saved four lives and enhanced 50 others.[41]
  • March 24 - Lovelle Mixon's sister, Enjoli Mixon, in whose apartment the shooting occurred, appeared in a Fremont court after being arrested on a bench warrant stemming from an October, 2008 misdemeanor drug charge.[44]
  • March 25 - United States Congressman Jerry McNerney gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives honoring the four slain police officers.[45]
  • March 25 - A vigil for Lovelle Mixon, sponsored by the Uhuru Movement, was held along Oakland's MacArthur Blvd., close to where the shootings occurred. It was attended by Mixon's mother, his wife, some of his family members, and approximately 60 other people.[46][47]
  • March 27 - A public funeral for the four officers was held at Oakland's Oracle Arena. It was attended by at least 21,000 people. (See expanded section below.)
  • March 31 - Approximately 500 people attended the funeral service for Mixon. The service included family members, friends, singers and poets, and it was held at Fuller Funerals on International Boulevard in Oakland. A Nation of Islam minister asked everyone to remember that they were gathered to support Mixon's family, and one family member spoke of how Mixon had strayed from God.[48]
  • March 31 - Several hundred people gathered in the early evening at an event organized by Pastors of Oakland, which is composed mainly of black ministers. Caroline Mixon, cousin of Lovelle Mixon, publicly praised the Oakland Police Department for serving and protecting the people of Oakland. Reverend Doug Stevens exhorted those gathered to live as if they were already in heaven, "without regard to color or class".[39]
  • May 4 - A state laboratory associated with the Oakland Police Department reported that Lovelle Mixon's DNA linked him to the rape of a 12-year-old girl on February 5, 2009, and also proved that he robbed and raped two young women on the morning of the shootings. Based on this latest revelation, California State's Attorney General Jerry Brown, former Mayor of Oakland, voiced his opinion that Lovelle Mixon had been "a one-man destruction force". Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, lamented that this new information "doesn't bring the guys back...all it says is, to his supporters, this is who you're supporting. Congratulations for supporting a monster."[6]

Police officers' funeral[edit]

On the morning of March 27, 2009, Oakland citizens filled the overpasses and streets near the Oracle Arena in a show of support for the Oakland Police Department and the slain officers. By the time the service started at 11:00 a.m. PDT, the arena was filled to its capacity of 19,000, including the entire 800-strong Oakland police force; an overflow of at least 2,000 persons spilled over into the adjacent Oakland Coliseum. Police officers from around the state and nation, as well as a contingent from Canada, attended the event.[50]

Speakers included Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Attorney General Jerry Brown.[51] Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums attended; however, he was asked not to speak at the funeral by at least two of the slain officers' families, and he honored this request.[52][53] Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles also attended but did not speak. Oakland Police Department Chaplain, Father Jayson Landeza, read a letter of sympathy and support from Barack and Michelle Obama.

Relatives, friends, and comrades delivered eulogies to the four slain officers, praising their heroism, humanity, and selfless service to the people of Oakland.[54][55]

An affecting tribute came from Oakland Police Captain Edward Tracey, commander of the SWAT team that cornered Mixon. "These were my men," he said. "They died doing what they loved: riding on motorcycles, kicking in doors, serving on SWAT."[56] Captain Tracey thanked the witnesses who called 911 and attempted to aid Sergeant Dunakin and Officer Hege, "To the citizens who called 911 last Saturday to report our officers down and the brave man...I hope you hear me, sir...the brave man who provided CPR to our fallen heroes, we thank you, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your actions let us know that they, that these officers, did not die in vain. That the people, that they were there to serve, were the ones that helped them in the end." The "brave man" he was thanking was Clarence Ellis, who had used his own coat to tamponade the arterial blood spurting from Sergeant Mark Dunakin's neck.[57][58]

Referring to press coverage that attempted to link the murder of the officers to the January 1, 2009, slaying of Oscar Grant, retired Oakland Police Department Lieutenant Lawrence Eade admonished the press, "For those who manipulate the story, may your careers be extremely difficult until you tell the truth... This is not about your ratings, this is about a tragic loss... The citizens are not arming themselves against the police, there is no war between us and you cannot create one!"[54]

After the service concluded at approximately 3:00 p.m. PDT, long cavalcades of police cars escorted the officers' coffins to their final resting places, and the thousands of mourners dispersed.

Other tributes[edit]

  • A portion of Interstate 580 (California) is now called the Sgt. Daniel Sakai Memorial Highway.
  • On March 21, 2012, the third anniversary of the shootings, the Keller Avenue Bridge on I-580 was designated as the Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sgt. Daniel Sakai and Officer John Hege Memorial Bridge.[59]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Doomed SWAT sergeants didn't expect an AK-47, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  2. ^ Associated Press (April 4, 2009). "3 officers killed in Pittsburgh shooting". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved April 6, 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Shooting ranks as one of deadliest in U.S. law enforcement in decades". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. April 5, 2009. Retrieved April 6, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Honoring all fallen members of the Oakland Police Department". The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  5. ^ "Oakland Police Department Memorial Wall". Oakland Police Department. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  6. ^ a b c d Van Derebken, Jaxon. Cop-killer raped 2 on day of attack, police say. San Francisco Chronicle: May 5, 2009
  7. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (March 31, 2009). "Oakland killer had just been linked to rape". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Independent Board of Inquiry Into the Oakland Police Department: March 21, 2009, Incident"
  9. ^ Payton, Brenda (March 29, 2009). "6 shots in a quiet East Oakland neighborhood". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  10. ^ Review could bring changes in officer training, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  11. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (March 31, 2009). "Oakland killer had just been linked to rape". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  12. ^ http://www.theoakbook.com/Category.aspx?Catid=108
  13. ^ Moore, Solomon; McKinley, Jesse (March 25, 2009). "A Familiar Path in Months Before Fatal Shooting". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b c Woman says she pointed police to Oakland killer, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  15. ^ a b "2009 Oakland police shooting: Arbitrator reverses discipline against officers faulted for tragic SWAT operation"
  16. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (March 23, 2009). "Doomed SWAT sergeants didn't expect an AK-47". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  17. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (March 26, 2009). "Assault rifles flow freely from Nevada". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 28 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  18. ^ http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=6730020
  19. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (March 26, 2009). "Assault rifles flow freely from Nevada". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 28 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  20. ^ http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=6730020
  21. ^ Mark Dunakin - a cop committed to Oakland, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  22. ^ John Hege - always the first to respond, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  23. ^ Ervin Romans - compassionate SWAT veteran, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  24. ^ Daniel Sakai - quick learner was a rising star, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  25. ^ Bulwa, Demian (March 23, 2009). "Killer of 4 officers wanted to avoid prison". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  26. ^ http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/04/01/18585107.php Lovelle Mixon's Funeral - March 31, 2009 by Sista T
  27. ^ http://209.157.64.200/focus/f-news/2214803/posts
  28. ^ Cop-killer was suspected of raping 12-year-old, San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 2009
  29. ^ Killer of 4 officers wanted to avoid prison, San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2009
  30. ^ Van Derbeken, Jaxon (March 31, 2009). "Oakland killer had just been linked to rape". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  31. ^ McKinley, Jesse (March 24, 2009). "Gunman Was Suspect in Rape, Police Say". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  32. ^ McKinley, Jesse (March 24, 2009). "Gunman Was Suspect in Rape, Police Say". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  33. ^ "3 California Police Officers Dead, 1 Gravely Wounded After Traffic Stop". Fox News. March 23, 2009. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  34. ^ Bulwa, Demian (March 24, 2009). "Woman says she pointed police to Oakland killer". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  35. ^ "Police 2, Oakland residents 4". Archived from the original on 28 March 2009. 
  36. ^ http://sfchronicle.us/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/26/MNDD16N9VP.DTL
  37. ^ http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/6935
  38. ^ Dozens march for Mixon SFGate 03/25/2009
  39. ^ a b Kuruvila, Matthai (April 1, 2009). "Killer's cousin pays tribute to Oakland cops". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 4 April 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  40. ^ Police: Fourth Oakland police officer has died, Associated Press, March 22, 2009
  41. ^ "Four receive organs from slain California officer". CNN. March 25, 2009. Retrieved December 21, 2009. 
  42. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/24/MNJP16MF1U.DTL&tsp=1 Retrieved on 2009-03-25.
  43. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/nov05election/detail?&entry_id=37444 retrieved on 2009-03-25.
  44. ^ Mixon's sister arraigned in Fremont
  45. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_11994035 Retrieved on 2009-03-25.
  46. ^ Uhuru Movement releases statement on Lovelle Mixon's shooting of four Oakland police
  47. ^ March for Lovelle Mixon who shot four Oakland cops before being murdered on YouTube.
  48. ^ Hundreds mourn man who killed police officers, San Francisco Chronicle, April 1, 2009
  49. ^ Urban, Mychael (2009-04-08). "A's to honor slain OPD officers". Oakland Athletics official website. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  50. ^ http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/livenow?id=6725697
  51. ^ http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-oakland-memorial28-2009mar28,0,1156822.story retrieved 2009-03-27
  52. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (March 29, 2009). "Mayor Dellums persona non grata by Oakland police". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2009. 
  53. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12011923
  54. ^ a b http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2009/03/28/oakland_police/index.html
  55. ^ http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/oakland-police-shooting/ci_12013670
  56. ^ Thousands Attend Funeral For 4 Oakland Officers AP, March 28, 2009
  57. ^ http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=6726894
  58. ^ http://podcast.kcbs.com/kcbs/1653430.mp3
  59. ^ http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Fallen-Oakland-Officers-Honored-Today-143679096.html

External links[edit]