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Review Critical of Calif. Police in LODDs

Review Critical of Calif. Police in LODDs

Four Oakland officers killed on March 21, 2009. (AP Photo)

The AP via YellowBrix

January 07, 2010

OAKLAND, Calif. — A series of crucial missteps in the hours after two Oakland motorcycle officers were gunned down led to an ill-fated decision to storm the apartment where the suspect was hiding, a move that ended in two more police deaths, a panel of law enforcement experts said Wednesday.

The panel said the deadliest day in Oakland Police Department history — March 21, 2009 — was set in motion when the motorcycle officers ignored safety procedures by approaching the driver’s side window together during a traffic stop.

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The driver, parolee Lovelle Mixon, reached outside the window and shot both officers — Sgt. Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege — then crawled out the window and shot them again in the street as they lay dying, the panel’s 18-page report said.

But the mistakes mounted exponentially after the first lieutenant on scene issued a citywide call of an officer down, adding to the already chaotic situation when dozens of patrol cars responded.

“This lack of coordination contributed to an ineffective and poorly managed operation,” the report said.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said Wednesday that despite the errors, there were also many good decisions, and selfless and courageous acts that day.

Batts also said some officers have been reassigned as a result of the incident.

“We will correct those areas that we were flawed in,” he said. “We will improve.”

The report’s writers were most critical of a law officer identified only as “Lieutenant No. 3,” who they say developed the plan to deploy a hastily assembled SWAT team to a nearby apartment and disregarded evidence that Mixon — also a suspected rapist — might still be hiding there.

Lieutenant No. 3 also failed to wait for snipers, hostage negotiators and a building blueprint, the report said.

“By not providing sufficient time for team preparation, Lieutenant No. 3 prematurely ordered the Entry Team to undertake a high-risk task from a position of extreme disadvantage,” the report’s authors wrote. “The hasty approval of this plan by senior commanders compounded this error.”

Within seconds of entering the apartment, SWAT team member Sgt. Ervin Romans was fatally shot by Mixon, who was armed with an assault rifle fitted with a magazine of ammunition and a bayonet.

Rather than retreating to a safe location, according to department procedure, the rest of the SWAT team continued moving into the dimly lit apartment. Mixon then fatally shot another SWAT team member, Sgt. Daniel Sakai, before being killed by other officers.

“I don’t know if they had done anything differently that the results would not have been the same,” assistant chief Howard Jordan, then acting-chief at the time, said Wednesday. “Lovelle Mixon was determined, willing and capable of doing what he did.”

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