OAKLAND — Five years to the day after they were shot to death by a single suspect, four Oakland police officers, including two of Japanese descent, were memorialized March 21 at a Catholic mass held at Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Addressing law enforcement officers from throughout the Bay Area and beyond, Interim Police Chief Sean Whent said, “It’s important to realize that people who may have lost their lives are never forgotten. They are always part of the OPD family and it’s important for us to remember them.”
Mayor Jean Quan was also among the public officials who paid their respects.
March 21, 2009, will be remembered as one of the darkest days for law enforcement in Oakland and throughout California. On that Saturday afternoon a chain of events started with a routine traffic stop in East Oakland and ended with five OPD officers shot, four of them fatally.
At 1:05 p.m., OPD motor officer Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, stopped a Buick driven by Lovelle Mixon, 26, in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard. Officer John Hege, 41, arrived on scene moments later. Mixon opened fire on Dunakin and Hege with a handgun, striking both. Before fleeing the scene, Mixon stood over the downed officers and fired again.
An intense manhunt by OPD, CHP, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department ensued. Soon after, OPD received an anonymous tip that the suspect was barricaded inside an apartment building on 74th Avenue. After repeated attempts to communicate with Mixon failed, a SWAT team was sent in to apprehend him.
As SWAT officers made entry, Mixon opened fire with an assault rifle from behind a closet door, killing Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Takashi Sakai, 35. A third officer was wounded. Officers returned fire and Mixon was killed.
Mixon had an extensive violent criminal history and was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon for armed robbery. At the time of the incident he was wanted on a no-bail warrant. Reportedly, just a day before the shootings Oakland police detectives had connected Mixon’s DNA to an unsolved child rape case.
Dunakin, Romans, and Sakai passed away on March 21. Hege remained on life support for two days pending organ donation, which ultimately saved the lives of four people.
Dunakin left behind his wife, Angela; children, Anthony, Sienna, and Patrick; his parents, David and Karen Dunakin; and brother, Christopher Dunakin, and wife Shannon.
Romans left behind his wife, Laura, whom he had recently married, and three children, Kristina, Justin, and Kayla. He was the son of Chester and Sueko Romans.
Sakai left behind his wife, Jennifer, a UC Berkeley police officer; their daughter, Jojiye; his parents, Tom and Mikki; and his brothers, Toshi and Tommy.
Hege left behind his parents, Dr. John and Tamara Hege.
On March 27, 2009, an unprecedented 20,000 people gathered at Oracle Arena and the adjacent Oakland Coliseum to pay tribute to the fallen peace officers. Law enforcement representing agencies from across the country and Canada attended, along with dignitaries from every level of government, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and the mayors of Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland.
As the four flag-draped caskets lined the stage, the entire 815-member Oakland Police Department filled the front rows of the arena while officers from the CHP and neighboring cities patrolled the streets of Oakland.
(Source: California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation)