By Henry Lee
San Francisco Chronicle
OAKLAND — Bay Area law enforcement officers and others were marking the five-year anniversary Friday of the tragic day when four Oakland police officers were shot and killed — the single deadliest day in the department's history.
A morning funeral mass for the officers was being held at the Cathedral of Christ the Light near Lake Merritt in Oakland.
Sgt. Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege, both motorcycle officers, were fatally shot by wanted rape suspect Lovelle Mixon during a traffic stop in East Oakland on March 21, 2009. Hours later, while holed up in an apartment building, Mixon shot and killed Sgts. Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai of the department's SWAT team.
Mixon, who had been in and out of prison for robbery, battery and assault with a deadly weapon, was then fatally shot by police and an Alameda County sheriff's deputy.
Investigations into the chaotic incident found that mistakes and poor leadership had contributed to the tragedy. Two Oakland police supervisors were disciplined for their decisions that day, but an arbitrator concluded that they were unjustly demoted and ordered their ranks restored.
The tragedy created three widows and took fathers away from eight children.
"Please take a moment to remember our fallen OPD officers on the 5-year anniversary of 3/21," Oakland police Lt. Robert Chan posted on Twitter.
"Fathers, husbands, sons, brothers and friends."
Sgt. Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said March 21 "is a day that is hallowed here at OPD."
Donelan said he wanted the public to remember that the officers "died in their blue uniforms to protect the citizens, and they knew the risks and paid the ultimate price to do so. Law enforcement continues to be a job that is a vocation."
Referring to this week's shooting death of Mendocino County sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino by a kidnapping and homicide suspect, Donelan added, "It is extremely challenging and is demonstrated by what happened in Mendocino County just 48 hours ago. It can be very deadly for those who put their lives on the line for the citizens of California."
Copyright 2014 the San Francisco Chronicle
McClatchy-Tribune News Service