Remembering officers Dunakin, Hege, Romans, Sakai
The Chauncey Bailey Project
It started as a routine traffic stop. It ended with the deaths of four officers — an assault on the Oakland Police Department, on the city, on the surrounding communities, on a civilized society.
We must remember at a time like this the bravery and dedication of officers who put their lives on the line to protect us all from a world of anarchy. When events go awry, when people clash, when incidents turn violent, it’s the officers on the street who are the last line of defense restoring and maintaining the peace.
And, in some communities, that job is especially risky. We found that out this weekend when Officer John Hege and Sgt. Mark Dunakin were gunned down Saturday as they stopped wanted parolee Lovelle Mixon, of Oakland. Within two hours the ensuing search located Mixon in a nearby apartment. As SWAT team members went to capture him, he opened fire with an assault weapon, this time fatally shooting Sgts. Dan Sakai and Erv Romans, before he was killed.
It was the deadliest day in Oakland Police Department history and one of the worst ever for law enforcement in the state.
Our sympathies go out to the families of the slain officers, and to Mixon’s family as well. This is a tragedy that touches many lives. It will undoubtedly raise questions about police precautions during traffic stops and SWAT team raids. It will raise questions about the criminal justice system that let Mixon back on the street.
We must ask those questions for we must review all procedures to see if improvements can be made.
Yet, it may be that police did the best they could, that our system is imperfect. That it can’t stop all miscreants determined to take human life — determined to defy authority and use sophisticated lethal weaponry to upset our tenuous societal balance. If we don’t help, if we don’t watch out for one another, police can’t always protect us. Indeed, they can’t always protect themselves.
It’s an unsettling thought.
But it should remind us just how important those slain officers and their colleagues are for maintaining order in these troubled times. It should remind us just how brave they are when they put on their uniforms each day and step out on the street. For that, we will always be grateful as we mourn the deaths of Hege, Dunakin, Sakai and Romans, who lost their lives for all of us.