OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Bouquets of flowers from grieving residents were piled up at a growing memorial in front of the Oakland police department after its worst single day death toll.
Three officers were killed Saturday during separate confrontations with a 26-year-old parolee who relatives said feared returning to jail. A fourth officer was removed from life support Sunday.
"We lose officers about every 57 hours in this country," said Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police. "But seldom do you have one of this magnitude."
Oakland had never lost even two officers in the line of duty on the same day. Flags at the state capitol were flown at half-staff Sunday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned from Washington, D.C., to meet briefly with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and members of the police department.
Police said all four officers were shot Saturday by Lovelle Mixon, 26, of Oakland, a parolee who fled after shooting the first two officers following a traffic stop, then shot two more after a SWAT team entered an apartment in which he was hiding. Mixon was killed by officers, police said.
Mixon's family gathered Sunday at his grandmother's East Oakland home, where he had stayed on and off since being released from a nine-month sentence for a parole violation, family members said.
LaTasha Mixon, 28, a cousin of the gunman, said her family's prayers were with the slain officers' relatives. "We're devastated. Everybody took a major loss. We're crushed," she said.
Mixon was wanted on a no-bail warrant for violating his parole when Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Officer John Hege, 41, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland just after 1 p.m., police said.
The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely wounding Hege, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said.
Police initially issued a statement Sunday saying Hege had died but later backtracked, saying the officer had been declared brain dead but remained on life support while a decision was made about donating his organs.
Reached by telephone, Dr. John S. Hege said his son was attached to a ventilator and "looks fine" except for a black eye behind which the bullet was lodged.
"He does not have vital brain function to sustain life and will not regain that," Hege said, adding that the family would soon make a decision about continuing life support.
After shooting Hege and Dunakin, the gunman fled on foot, police said, leading to an intense manhunt. Two hours later, officers found the gunman inside a nearby apartment building.
When a SWAT team entered, the gunman opened fire, police said. Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35, were killed and a third officer was grazed by a bullet, police said.
Officers returned fire, killing Mixon, police said.
Mixon had previously served six years in state prison for assault with a firearm during an armed robbery in San Francisco, the family said. While he was in Corcoran state prison, he married his childhood girlfriend, they said.
Mixon's uncle, 38-year-old Curtis Mixon of Fremont, said his nephew had become depressed because as a convicted felon he could not find work. His nephew expected authorities to issue an arrest warrant for missing parole meetings, even though the he felt he was not to blame, he said.
"I think his frustration was building up, but he was trying to better himself," Curtis Mixon said. LaTasha Mixon said Sunday her cousin was "not a monster."
Dunakin is survived by his wife of 16 years and their three children, two boys ages 15 and 8, and a 13-year-old daughter, said Maxine Schwab, Dunakin's mother-in-law.
"He was smart, and he was so good with people, very warm and affectionate," said Schwab. "If you met him, you'd be charmed by him."
Schwarzenegger's office said that like Dunakin, Romans, who lived in Danville, left behind a wife and three children.
Friends who knew Sakai from his days at the University of California at Berkeley and his continued involvement in his college fraternity said he was married to a campus police officer and was the father of a young daughter. He and his family lived in Castro Valley.
Oren Levy, a fraternity brother of Sakai, said his friend grew up in Big Bear and was an accomplished mountain biker and outdoorsman who majored in forestry and graduated in 1995.
As an undergraduate at Berkeley, Sakai worked for the campus police department as a student volunteer. After graduation, Sakai spent a year in Japan teaching English.
"His honor was extremely important to him. Whenever there was a situation where someone could take the path that was less honorable, he always advocated doing the right thing," Levy said. "Being a police officer was really perfect for him."
Hege's father said his son, who lived in Concord, loved being a policeman. He worked well with people and was an Eagle Scout. He played high school football and wrestled. He umpired and coached even as a youth, and joined the Oakland Police Department reserves.
He taught high school physical education for a few years in Hayward before joining the police department a decade ago. He recently became a motorcycle traffic patrol officer, Hege said, adding, "He liked excitement."
As for the slain shooting suspect, Dr. John S. Hege said, "The man was evidently terribly desperate. It is a sad story."