Calif. police to release report on '09 SWAT raid

Oakland police report expected to criticize decision making on deadly day

San Jose Mercury News

OAKLAND, Calif. — A report to be issued today by the Police Department on the shooting deaths of four Oakland police officers March 21 is expected to criticize decisions made by a number of police commanders that day.

The inquiry was commissioned last spring by then-acting police Chief Howard Jordan and was meant to get to the bottom of what happened March 21 and provide lessons that could help Oakland police and other law-enforcement agencies avoid similar tragedies.

Neither the Police Department nor the City Attorney's Office would release the report Tuesday. Sources familiar with it said that while the report will not name names, it will highlight possible mistakes made by high-level commanders including those overseeing the decision to send SWAT officers into the East Oakland apartment where 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon was hiding after he had fatally shot two motorcycle officers.

Police should have done a better job of gathering intelligence before a decision was made to send officers in, the report is expected to conclude.

It is also expected to single out some officers for exemplary work on the day that has been described as the darkest in Oakland Police Department history. It all began when Mixon was pulled over on what seemed a routine traffic stop.

"The report covers the entire incident," police Chief Anthony Batts said, "from the running of the stop sign, to the conclusion — the loss of life of four officers.

It identifies some things that were done well out there, "... and it will also show some of our flaws."

Fatally shot March 21 were motorcycle Officer John Hege, 41, of Concord, Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, of Tracy, and SWAT Sgts. Erv Romans, 43, of Danville, and Daniel Sakai, 35, of Castro Valley. Mixon eventually was killed by police after they raided the apartment.

Disciplinary actions against officers who may have made mistakes will not be recommended in the report, but it is believed that based on its findings some commanders and possibly others present at the SWAT scene where Romans and Sakai were killed could face punishment.

The commanding officers at the SWAT scene were Lt. Chris Mufarreh, Capt. Rick Orozco and Deputy Chief David Kozicki. Kozicki recently retired, citing the March 21 fallout as one reason for his decision to step down.

Batts did not directly address the possibility of discipline, saying the report will offer the department opportunities to improve itself in a number of ways.

"Corrective actions at all levels will be taken," he said.

Attorney Michael Rains, who represents Kozicki, Orozco and Mufarreh and whose firm represents nearly every officer on the scene during the SWAT operation, said his clients made the best, good-faith decisions they could in a life-and-death situation. He added that he hopes the department does not pursue discipline.

"What I see in the kind of situation that was present March 21 was that there was not a lot of time for the command staff to make decisions when they have a suspect who is outstanding who has just shot down two officers literally at point-blank range," he said. "Decisions needed to be made quickly."

Today by no means will be an easy day for the department. Batts likened the situation to a scab that needs to be ripped off and will be painful for a time but ultimately will help the organization heal.

"It's not easy," he said. "You have to ensure you focus on the relatives. You have to focus on the employees. You have to focus on the people you provide service to, our customer base — the community."

Copyright 2010 San Jose Mercury News

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