Police Shootings Shake Oakland The Oakland Police Department suffered the worst police tragedy in its history Saturday. Three police officers were shot dead, and another was badly wounded by a man wanted for violating his parole. Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR's Richard Gonzales with the latest news.
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Police Shootings Shake Oakland

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Police Shootings Shake Oakland

Police Shootings Shake Oakland

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Mr. RON DELLUMS (Oakland, California Mayor): Our hearts go out to the families that at this very moment are experiencing a level of tragedy and loss beyond our ability to comprehend, nor to express in words.

HANSEN: That's Oakland, California Mayor Ron Dellums issuing condolences yesterday on behalf of the city mourning the worst police tragedy in its history. Three veteran officers are dead and a fourth is clinging to life after being shot Saturday afternoon by a man who was being sought for violating his parole. The gunman is also dead. He was killed in a shootout with a police SWAT team that had cornered him in an apartment.

NPR's Richard Gonzales joins us with more details. Richard, can you take us through the sequence of events that led to this?

RICHARD GONZALES: Yes, Liane. There were two officers, Oakland police officers on motorcycles who stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland on a very busy street just after 1 PM. The driver, one Lovelle Mixon, 26 years old, of Oakland, he opened fire almost immediately. He killed one officer and gravely wounded another. Then Mixon fled on foot leading to a very, very intense manhunt by dozens of Oakland police, California Highway Patrol officers and Alameda County sheriff deputies.

Then around 3:30, about two hours after the first shooting, officers got an anonymous tip that Mixon was inside a nearby apartment building. A SWAT team entered, Mixon opened fire and two SWAT team members were killed, a third was grazed by a bullet. And other officers shot and killed Mixon.

HANSEN: Who are the following officers, and what's known about them?

GONZALES: We have Sergeant Mark Dunakin, who was 40 years old, was killed at the traffic stop. Officer John Hege, 41 years old, also shot at the traffic stop, was in grave condition. His father, John S. Hege, is a physician. On the phone with the AP, he said that his son had an injury to his brain and it's not clear that he can survive. The SWAT team officers killed at the apartment was -one was sergeant Ervin Romans, who was 43 years old, and also, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, who was 35 years old.

HANSEN: What more is known about the gunman Lovelle Mixon?

GONZALES: Mixon was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon. The police were seeking him for violating that parole. Police said that they did not know why the officers initially stopped the suspect, but they said it was apparently a routine traffic stop. Police say that Mixon had, quote, unquote, "an extensive criminal history" and was wanted on a no bail warrant, but we don't much more about that warrant. Here's California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who was once the mayor of Oakland, and here's what he had to say about Mixon and the shooting.

Mr. JERRY BROWN (California Attorney General): It's horrible. It's horrible, and it just shows you how dangerous a lot of people are. I mean, they're parolees, they're criminals. We know there's hundreds of shooters walking around the East Bay and some of them do what happened tonight.

GONZALES: Brown was joined by Mayor Ron Dellums and police officials at a news conference Saturday. And Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was in Washington, D.C. when the shootings occurred, is scheduled to fly to Oakland today.

HANSEN: In the seconds we have left, although these are the first Oakland police officers killed in 10 years, the relationship between the police and the citizens has been troubled. Can you give us just a brief history of that?

GONZALES: Well, things are not good right now, partially because of the tensions between police and the community over the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer on January 1st. That officer, Johannes Mehserle, has pleaded not guilty to murder. There were violent protests against that incident.

And so there was a lot of feeling of community versus the police. And so what we have is a very tragic situation in which you've got a community that's split and very saddened by these turn of events.

HANSEN: NPR's Richard Gonzales. Thank you, Richard.

GONZALES: Thank you.

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