Oakland: Within Local Community, Reaction to Saturday Killings Is Mixed

KPIX-TV (Oakland), March 23, 2009

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A steady stream of mourners came to Oakland police headquarters at 455 7th St. today to pay tribute to the slain officers. As of 3 p.m. there were more than 50 bouquets of flowers outside the headquarters and another 30 bouquets in the lobby.

There were notes attached to many of the bouquets and there also were stuffed animals and balloons.

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At Oakland City Hall a few blocks away, at 3:15 p.m. 21 people stood in line to sign condolence books that will be given to family members of the four fallen officers. There also was a small collection of bouquets at City Hall.

A memorial consisting of flowers and five American flags has been set up on MacArthur Boulevard near where motorcycle Officer John Hege, 41, and Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, were shot by wanted parolee 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon during a traffic stop Saturday. Dunakin was killed and Hege was declared brain dead on Sunday.

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However, around the corner on 74th Avenue, a very different memorial had been set up outside an apartment building where sergeants Ervin Romans, 43, and Daniel Sakai, 35, were fatally wounded in a shootout with Mixon, who also died.

That memorial was not for police; it was for Mixon.

Several people had stopped by to pay tribute to Mixon, including 48-year-old Sandra Cook.

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However, Cook was there mostly for Mixon, she said, although she did not know him. She has a son about Mixon’s age and spoke of Mixon almost maternally.

“Something was going on in this man’s life,” Cook said.

She took issue with the extreme amount of attention the officers’ deaths have garnered. Cook said her brother and nephew were shot and killed by San Francisco police in separate incidents. Another nephew was killed in a shooting in Oakland.

“When my nephew got killed, there wasn’t any coverage of him,” she said.

Nearby, Bahari Olatunji from the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement was handing out fliers for a march and vigil Wednesday in Mixon’s honor. The flier states the vigil is meant to “uphold the resistance of the African community as represented by Brother Lovelle Mixon.”

Olatunji said tensions between police and the black community are nothing new.

“Their history is one of brutality and terrorizing our community,” Olatunji said of police.

He said the community is still hurting from the shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale station on New Year’s Day.

Patricia Franklin, 59, said her daughter went to school with Mixon. She alleged that police are out of touch with the communities they serve.

“They don’t live in Oakland, they live in Concord, Brentwood, Antioch, then they come into Oakland and try to control it,” Franklin said.

Back across town, at police headquarters on Seventh Street, Chaz Walker and his wife Ifetayo Walker brought their two young sons to pay tribute to the fallen officers. They posed for a photo in front of the dozens of bouquets that had been placed outside the building.

“I wanted my sons to know that even though this is a black man that perpetrated this crime, we stand with the Oakland PD,” Chaz Walker said.

As a black man himself, Chaz Walker wanted to make clear to his sons that Mixon’s actions are shameful.

“It’s not about race, this is bigger than race,” he said.

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Funds have been established in support of the families of the fallen officers and individual checks may be mailed to the Oakland Police Officers Association, attention Rennee Hassna, 555 Fifth St., Oakland, Ca, 94607. Checks can be made out to the following: Dunakin Children’s Family Trust; Romans Children’s Family Trust; and Sakai Family Trust.

Wire transfers may be made to directly to Merrill Lynch accounts: Dunakin Children’s Family Trust, account No. 204-04065; Romans Children’s Family Trust, account No. 204-04066; and Sakai Family Trust, account No. 204-04064.

[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories about the Oakland shootings can be read here and here.]

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