By Associated Press
Thursday, March 26, 2009
OAKLAND, Calif. – As the city prepares for a massive public funeral for four police officers slain in the line of duty, dozens took to the streets in a show of support for the man authorities say was their killer.
Organized by International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, the march Wednesday evening took participants near a police substation within sight of the two locations where Lovelle Mixon allegedly shot the veteran officers before being slain himself.
Loved ones and supporters walked through the streets chanting, “OPD you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” There were no officers patrolling the march route.
“I don’t condone what he did, but it’s bringing to light the frustrations between the community and the police,” said Uhuru Movement member Kihad Deen. “This gives people a chance to speak their minds.”
Mixon’s cousin, Dolores Darnell, 26, addressed the small crowd, calling him “a true hero, a soldier.”
“This is the real Lovelle,” she said, holding a picture of a smiling Mixon with his wife. “We do apologize for what he did to the officers’ families. But he’s not a monster.”
Authorities say a day before the shooting the 26-year-old fugitive parolee was linked by DNA to the February rape of a 12-year-old girl who was dragged off the street at gunpoint.
The event took place a day after a city-sponsored gathering drew about 1,000 people to the crime scene to honor the slain officers: Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40; John Hege, 41; Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43; and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35.
Police said Hege and Dunakin were gunned down Saturday when the two motorcycle officers pulled over Mixon. In a manhunt that followed, Romans and Sakai died when the city’s SWAT team stormed an apartment where Mixon was hiding. Mixon also died in the gunfire.
Speaking at the event honoring the officers Tuesday night, Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan said the department was being sustained by an outpouring of public sympathy that included flowers, food, donations for the officers’ families and more than 3,000 e-mails, cards and calls.
“It speaks volumes for us. To see so many people here today, in the very same community we lost four officers, means so much to us,” Jordan said, noting that the condolences have far exceeded any hints of criticism. “We’re going to get through this, with the support of our families and with the support of you, the community.”
Meanwhile, the state inspector general said Wednesday that Mixon was properly monitored by corrections officials after he was released from prison in November. Mixon was wanted on a parole violation when the shootings happened, although it is not yet known whether that was the reason Hege and Dunakin pulled him over on Saturday afternoon.
Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said Wednesday that the rank-and-file is trying to cope with the tragedy while preparing for a public funeral Friday that is expected to fill the arena where the Golden State Warriors play.
“Everyone is devastated,” Arotzarena said. “Everyone is trying to seek answers to it all, including, ’Why did this happen?’
“Our reaction is no different than anyone else.”
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 133 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2008, a 27 percent decrease from year before and the lowest annual total since 1960