With the Oakland Police Department mourning the violent deaths of four of its own, a group Wednesday staged a vigil for the man authorities say gunned down the fallen officers.
Dozens of loved ones and supporters gathered for the evening march, organized by International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, that took participants near a police substation within sight of the two locations where Lovelle Mixon allegedly shot the veteran officers. Mixon, 26, also was killed in the confrontation.
"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."
As mourners walked through the streets, they chanted, "OPD you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" There were no officers patrolling the march route.
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."
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.
Pleasant Hill Police Chief Peter Dunbar, who spent almost 25 years working as an officer in Oakland, said that while the Mixon vigil was bound to chafe emotions already rubbed raw from the officers' slaying, the police would handle it with professional detachment and "shrug things off."
"You can't let that get to you," Dunbar said, adding that in its hiring the department looks for individuals who exercise restraint in volatile situations. "People are waiting for someone to go off, ready with cameras and everything else. But that department is much more professional than these activist agitators think."
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.
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."
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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.
The Inspector General's office did an independent review of Mixon's parole for the state Corrections Department. The office said in a preliminary report that Mixon's parole officers "followed all appropriate supervision, drug testing, and even job assistance." It says officials also properly notified authorities after Mixon failed to check in with his parole officer Feb. 19.
"I'm proud of the work our parole agent fugitive apprehension team did in Oakland," Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate told the state Senate Rules Committee during a hearing Wednesday. He did not elaborate, other than to acknowledge that there always can be improvements.
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. Of those, 39 officers were killed in firearms-related incidents, a decrease of 43 percent from 2007 and the lowest number since 1956.
The fund manages a national memorial in Washington, D.C. that already carries more than 18,000 names. Romans, Sakai, Dunakin and Hege will be added to the roster in May 2010 during National Police Week, said Craig W. Floyd, the nonprofit's chairman.
Associated Press Writer Juliana Barbassa contributed to this report from San Francisco, Lisa Leff from Berkeley and Don Thompson from Sacramento.